Bladder cancer is caused by uncontrolled growth of cells in the bladder. Approximately 70,000 cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed every year in the US with 15,000 deaths yearly. If caught early bladder cancer is highly treatable.
Older white men are diagnosed more frequently than any other population, but bladder cancer has been diagnosed in men and women of all races. Risk factors for developing bladder cancer include:
• Exposure to toxins (certain dyes, rubber and chemicals)
• Prior radiation therapy to the pelvis and chronic bladder inflammation
Symptoms of bladder cancer can mimic those of a urinary tract infection including:
• Blood in the urine
• Lower abdominal pain
• Frequent urination
• Burning on urination
For this reason it is very important to seek medical attention if you develop these symptoms.
Multiple tests can be performed to help confirm a diagnosis of bladder cancer.
• Urine tests to look for cancer cells under the microscope
• An examination to look in the bladder called cystoscopy; this is a very simple procedure done in the office with local anesthesia where in the bladder is examined with a telescope by placing a small catheter like tube into the bladder through the urethra.
If bladder cancer is found a biopsy is then scheduled. Often times either a CT scan or MRI of the abdomen is performed to determine the stage of the cancer. Treatment then depends on whether the cancer has spread through the lining of the bladder into the muscle wall. If the cancer has not invaded the bladder wall, treatment may involve instilling certain medicines into the bladder on a weekly basis for 6 weeks once the tumor has been removed. This therapy depends upon the the grade and stage of the tumor.
If the tumor has invaded the muscle wall, removal of the bladder is often necessary. This may be performed in addition to chemotherapy given either before or after surgery. Removal of the bladder can be done either robotically through several small incisions with a telescope (laparoscopy) or in an open fashion through one larger incision. The urinary tract is reconstructed so that urine drains into a bag on the abdominal wall (stoma) or a new urinary bladder is made out of intestine and sewn to the urethra so the patient voids normally (neobladder).
At Prisma Health we have an experienced team of surgeons with specialized training in robotic laparoscopic surgery and creation of neobladdersurinary tract reconstruction after bladder removal. This less invasive approach can mean a faster recovery from surgery and better quality of life. Like most cancers, early detection is very important. Bladder cancer is highly treatable if caught at an early stage.