Cancer is the growth of
abnormal cells in the body. These extra cells grow together and form masses,
called tumors. In bladder cancer, these growths happen in the bladder.
The bladder is the part of your
urinary tract that stores your urine until you are
ready to let it out. See a picture of the
female urinary system or
male urinary system .
Bladder cancer can often be successfully treated if it
is found and treated early. And most bladder cancer is found early.
This topic is about the most common type of bladder cancer, called transitional cell cancer. This is cancer that starts in the inner layer of the bladder. It happens most often in people who are in their 60s or older.
Experts don't know what
causes bladder cancer. But smoking cigarettes or being exposed to certain chemicals raises your risk. And like other cancers, changes in the DNA of your
cells seem to play a role.
Blood in the urine is the
main symptom. Other symptoms may include having to urinate often or feeling
pain when you urinate.
These symptoms can be caused by other
problems, including a
urinary tract infection. Always call your doctor if
you see blood in your urine.
bladder cancer, your doctor will:
- Ask about your medical history and do a
physical exam, including a vaginal or rectal exam.
- Test your urine
to look for blood or abnormal cells.
- Do a
cystoscopy, a test that lets your doctor look into
your bladder with a thin, lighted viewing tool. Small tissue samples (biopsies) are taken and looked at under a microscope
to find out if there are cancer cells.
Treatment choices for bladder
- Surgery to remove any cancer. Sometimes
lasers or other methods can be used to get rid of tumors.
Chemotherapy, which uses medicine to destroy cancer
Immunotherapy, which causes your body's natural
defense system to attack bladder cancer cells.
Radiation therapy, which uses high-dose X-rays to kill
The treatment depends a lot on how much the cancer has
grown. Most bladder cancers are treated without having to remove the
Sometimes doctors do have to remove the bladder. For some
people, this means having urine flow into a bag outside of the body. But in
many cases, doctors can make a new bladder—using other body tissue—that works
very much like the old one.
Bladder cancer often comes back. The
new tumors can often be treated successfully if they are caught early. So it's very
important to have regular checkups after your treatment is done.
Finding out that you have cancer can change your life. You may feel like your world has turned upside down and you have lost all control. Talking with family, friends, or a counselor can really help. Ask your doctor about support groups. Or call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) or visit its website at www.cancer.org.