Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer

What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer occurs when there are abnormal, cancerous cells growing in the bladder. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 74,000 cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2012.

Bladder cancer affects men about three times more often than women, and it occurs in whites twice as often as in African-Americans. The risk of bladder cancer increases with age--over 90 percent of people who are diagnosed with it are older than 55.

Illustration of the anatomy of the urinary system, front view
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The bladder is a triangle-shaped, hollow organ located in the lower abdomen. It is held in place by ligaments that are attached to other organs and the pelvic bones. The bladder's walls relax and expand to store urine, and contract and flatten to empty urine through the urethra. The typical healthy adult bladder can store up to two cups of urine for two to five hours.

What are the different types of bladder cancer?

There are several types of bladder cancers, including the following:

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. Different diseases, including cancers, have different risk factors.

Although these factors can increase a person's risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop the disease, while others develop disease and have no known risk factors.

But, knowing your risk factors to any disease can help to guide you into the appropriate actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.

What causes bladder cancer?

While the exact causes of bladder cancer are not known, there are well-established risk factors for developing the disease. Risk factors for bladder cancer include the following:

What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?

The following are the most common symptoms of bladder cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of bladder cancer may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is bladder cancer diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for bladder cancer may include the following:

Once bladder cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will determine the grade and stage of the cancer:

What is the treatment for bladder cancer?

Specific treatment for bladder cancer will be determined by your doctor based on:

Most individuals with bladder cancer have superficial and noninvasive tumors. Treatment for these tumors is often very effective with an excellent prognosis. The remainder of bladder cancers invade deep into the bladder wall and muscle. There is a greater risk for metastasis into other tissues in these cases. Depending on the extent, bladder cancers may be managed with a single therapy or combination of treatments.

Treatment may include:

What is a urostomy?

A urostomy is a surgical procedure to create a new opening for urine drainage. Usually, a small portion of the small intestine is used to make a tube for urine passage to the outside of the body. The opening of this tube is called a stoma. Urine empties into a small pouch or bag attached over the stoma outside the body. Another type of urostomy procedure creates an internal pouch called a continent reservoir. This pouch, often made from the small intestine, is located inside the abdominal wall. It is connected to the urethra or to a stoma. Individuals with a continent reservoir urostomy learn to drain their urine using a catheter, either through the urethra or the stoma.

The long-term prognosis for individuals with bladder cancer depends on the size of the tumor, lymph node involvement, and degree of metastasis (spreading) at the time of diagnosis. Sometimes superficial bladder cancers recur locally in the bladder, at the site of original diagnosis, or at other places in the bladder. These recurrent tumors are evaluated and treated the same way as the original cancer. However, if the tumor continues to return, eventually a cystectomy will be required. But, tumors that recur in distant sites may require other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Can bladder cancer be prevented?

While there is no known way to prevent bladder cancer, you can reduce your chances of developing the disease. The ACS offers the following recommendations:

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