The bladder is located in the lower abdomen. It is a hollow organ with flexible muscular walls. It stores urine until a person is ready to urinate. Bladder cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the bladder.
Three main types of cancer affect the bladder. They are named for the type of cell that becomes cancerous:
Cancer occurs when cells in the body, in this case bladder cells, divide without control or order. Sometimes, cells divide uncontrollably when new cells are not needed. A mass of tissue called a growth or tumor can form. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. Malignant tumors can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
What causes the changes in the cells is not clear. It is likely to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
This condition is more common in adults between 65 and 85 years old. It is also more common in men and people who are Caucasian. Factors that may increase your chance of developing bladder cancer include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will feel the abdomen and pelvis for abnormalities. The physical exam may include a rectal or vaginal exam.
The physical exam combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, bladder cancer is staged from 0-IV. Stage 0 is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body.
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Treatment options depend on the stage and may include:
Surgery involves removing cancerous cells and nearby tissue. Types of surgery to treat bladder cancer include:
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy may be:
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, or via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. For bladder cancer, chemotherapy is often given directly into the bladder. This is called intravesical chemotherapy.
Biologic therapy (immunotherapy) uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or in a laboratory are given directly into the bladder to help boost, direct, or restore the body’s defenses against the cancer. This type of therapy is used only for superficial low-grade cancers that have been resected transurethrally.
To help reduce your chance of bladder cancer:
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
Bladder cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladdercancer/detailedguide/index. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Bladder cancer. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/bladder-cancer. Accessed June 11, 2015.
General information about bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at http://www.cancer.gov/types/bladder/patient/bladder-treatment-pdq. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Bladder cancer. JAMA. 2005;293(7):890.
7/21/2015 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Sun JW, Zhao LG, Ma X, Wang YY, Xiang YB. Obesity and risk of bladder cancer: a dose-response meta-analysis of 15 cohort studies. PLoS One. 2015;10(3).
Last reviewed June 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD Last Updated: 7/21/2015