The Truth About Bladder Cancer

With all the publicity around Prostate Cancer it seems that other cancers don't get as much attention.  A good example of this is Bladder Cancer. Each year approximately 70,000 people are diagnosed. Most of these cases (about 70%) are "superficial" cancers which only involve the surface of the bladder lining and are not dangerous cancers, i.e. they are not lethal. The other 30% are more aggressive forms and have a much higher risk of spreading and causing death. The number 1 risk factor for developing bladder cancer is tobacco use.

The most common symptom is blood in the urine, either visible or picked up on a urinalysis at the doctors office. Because of this, it is essential that any blood seen in the urine is further evaluated to rule out bladder cancer. There are however many other causes of blood in the urine, so having this doesn't necessarily mean that you have bladder cancer but further investigation is essential. Delays in the diagnosis of bladder cancer can result in spread of the cancer thereby missing  the opportunity for successful treatment.

The diagnosis is confirmed on cystoscopy which is usually performed in a urologists office under local anesthesia. This involves passing a small lighted instrument into the bladder so that any tumor present can be visualized. If a tumor is indeed present the next step is a "resection" or removal of the tumor which is also performed with a scope but under anesthesia. This serves two purposes:

1. Resection can serve as treatment curing the cancer at that time.

2. It provides a specimen to be examined by a pathologist to determine the nature of the tumor, ie. is it "superficial" or deep into the bladder wall and is it aggressive or not. This will determine if any further treatment is necessary.

Treatment of bladder cancer depends on how deep and how aggressive is the cancer. Non aggressive, superficial bladder cancers may not require any further treatment other than the original resection. It can recur however in up to 50% of patients but usually remains non aggressive. Recurrent bladder cancers are treated with resection followed by medication placed into the bladder which can significantly reduce the chance of recurrence.

If a bladder cancer is found to be aggressive and invasive (deep into the bladder muscle) this requires more aggressive treatment since the risk of metastasis (spread) is high. The most effective treatment to cure this type of bladder cancer is complete removal of the bladder. If found early the success rate for cure is good especially when combined with chemotherapy.  To learn more about the treatments available for bladder cancer, contact Philadelphia Urology Associates today.