Just as cancer can form in other organs, it can develop in the bladder. The most common type of bladder cancer is transitional cell carcinoma, which begins in the innermost layer of tissue lining the bladder.
In addition to bladder pain, other symptoms of bladder cancer can include:
- Blood in the urine
- Pain during urination
- Difficulty passing urine
- Frequent urination or urgent need to urinate
- Lower back pain
The following tests may be used to diagnose bladder cancer:
Cystoscopy. The doctor inserts a thin, lighted tube called a cystoscope into the bladder. During the test, the doctor can remove tissue samples from the bladder to be checked in the lab for cancer (biopsy). Bladder washings may also be performed to check for the presence of cancer cells. A procedure called flourescence cystoscopy is another way doctors can check for cancer.
Imaging tests. A CT or MRI scan is used to take detailed images of the bladder, which are sent to a computer screen. Your doctor may inject a special dye to help the bladder show up more clearly. Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is a series of X-rays taken of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder using a contrast dye to highlight these organs.
Urinalysis and urine culture. The doctor tests a sample of your urine for bacteria and other substances that can indicate disease.
Urine cytology. The urine is examined under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.
Treatment for bladder cancer depends on how aggressive the cancer is and how far it has spread (metastasized). If the cancer is small and has not spread, treatments may include:
- Surgery to remove the tumor (transurethral resection of the bladder is most commonly done)
- Intravesical therapy (treatment that prompts the immune system to go after the bladder cancer) delivered into the bladder
For bladder cancer that is more advanced, treatments may include:
- Surgery to remove part of the bladder
- Surgery to remove all of the bladder (radical cystectomy)
- Chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor, or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells
- Combination of chemotherapy and radiation in patients who cannot have surgery
Because bladder pain can have many possible causes, it's always a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor to have it checked out.