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Understanding Bladder Cancer -- the Basics

What Is Bladder Cancer?

The bladder is a pouch in the urinary tract that stores urine after it is produced by the kidneys. The bladder is lined with specialized cells called transitional cells.

Bladder cancer often arises from these transitional cells. The cancer spreads by penetrating bladder muscle, infiltrating surrounding fat and tissue, and -- if untreated -- spreads to lymph nodes and other organs, such as the liver, lungs, or bones.

Understanding Bladder Cancer

Find out more about bladder cancer:

Basics

Symptoms

Diagnosis and Treatment

Prevention

 

The earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the more limited it will likely be and the more effective the treatment can be. Thanks to improved procedures for early detection and treatment, such as urine cytology, five-year survival rates for bladder cancer improved from 50% in the 1960s to over 70% in the 1990s. Although bladder cancers often recur, prompt detection means they can be treated while they are still superficial.

The average age of those diagnosed with bladder cancer is 73. Men are three times more susceptible to the disease than women, and whites are more susceptible than blacks and Hispanics. Bladder cancer accounts for about 5% of cancers in the U.S. In 2013, the number of new diagnosed cases approached was expected to reach approximately 72,570 , and roughly 15,200 people were expected to die from the disease.

Many bladder tumors are not cancerous. Your doctor will help you understand what type of bladder tumor you have.

Urinary System

What Causes Bladder Cancer?

The exact cause of bladder cancer is unknown, but there are risk factors linked to the disease:

Bladder inflammation. Chronic inflammation of the bladder increases the risk of cancer. People with birth defects that affect the bladder, chronic bladder (urinary) infections,  persistent cystitis, or bladder stones, are more susceptible, as are people with histories of benign bladder tumors.

Smokingand other chemical exposure. More than most cancers, bladder cancer is associated with exposure to cancer-promoting chemicals, or carcinogens. Cigarette smoking is the main cause of bladder cancer, with smokers at twice the risk of developing bladder cancer. People exposed to arylamines -- painters, leatherworkers, machinists, metalworkers, and rubber and textile workers -- are at increased risk for bladder cancer, as are those who have had radiation therapy.

Consumption of nitrates in smoked and cured meats may be associated with bladder cancer, as may consumption of caffeine and saccharin. However, the connections have not been scientifically proven.

Chemotherapy. Some drugs used to treat other cancers may increase the risk of bladder cancer. They include cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide.

Use of the herb Aristolochia fangchi. This Chinese herb, taken by some people for weight loss, has been linked to bladder cancer.

Some genetic and familial disorders, such as Lynch syndrome, may be predisposing causes of bladder cancer.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on March 12, 2014

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