Bladder Cancer Defined
Bladder cancer is any of several types of cancer arising from the epithelial lining of the urinary bladder. Rarely the bladder is involved by non-epithelial cancers, such as lymphoma or sarcoma, but these are not ordinarily included in the colloquial term “bladder cancer.” It is a disease in which abnormal cells multiply without control in the bladder.
Types of Bladder Cancer
There are three types of Bladder Cancer: Transitional Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma.
- Transitional cell carcinoma starts in the cells that usually compose the inner lining of the bladder.
- Squamous cell carcinoma begins in flat, thin cells in the inner lining of the bladder.
- Adenocarcinoma starts in cells that produce and release mucus and fluids in the inner lining of the bladder.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
Bladder Cancer can often be detected early, which increases the chances that it can be treated successfully. Symptoms of bladder cancer include, but are definitely not limited to:
- Blood in urine
- Frequent urination
- Pain during urination
- Back pain
- Pelvic pain
Stages of Bladder Cancer
The stages of Bladder Cancer range from Stage 0, 0a and 0is to Roman numerals I to IV (1 to 4) to describe the severity of the cancer.
- Stage 0: Abnormal cells begin growing in the tissue lining the inside of the bladder. These abnormal cells could become cancer and spread into the normal tissue nearby.
- Stage 0a (papillary carcinoma): Looks like small fingers growing from the lining of the bladder.
- Stage 0is (carcinoma in situ): A flat tumor on the tissue lining the inside of the bladder.
- Stage I: The cancer is present and has spread to the layer of tissue under the inner lining of the bladder.
- Stage II: The cancer has now spread to the muscle wall of the bladder.
- Stage III: The cancer has now spread from the bladder to the layer of tissue surrounding it, and may have spread to the uterus, vagina and prostate.
- Stage IV: The cancer has spread from the bladder to the wall of the abdomen or pelvis. It could have also spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body.
Please note that the content contained herein was not prepared by medical professionals and should not be construed as medical advice. Please address all medical questions, concerns, and symptoms with your doctor.
Diagnosing Bladder Cancer
The best way to ascertain appropriate treatment is through quick diagnosis of the disease. Survival time relies on rapid diagnosis and immediate treatment.
There are various forms of tests available to screen for bladder cancer. They include, but may not be limited to the following:
Urinalysis: A urinalysis checks for blood in the urine. Blood in the urine can be caused by non-cancerous conditions like infections, but can also be one of the first signs of bladder cancer. Blood in the urine is not always evident to the naked eye, which is why a urinalysis is a very useful diagnostic test.
Urine Cytology: A urine cytology is a test where physicians examine urine specimens under a microscope and look for cancer cells.
Cystoscopy: A cystoscopy is a procedure whereby a narrow tube is inserted through the urethra. The cystoscope has a lens and light on the end of it so that the doctor performing the procedure can see the inside of the urethra and bladder to check for signs of cancer.
Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure where a doctor will remove a sample of tissue or fluid from the body that is then examined under a microscope to see if it is cancerous. In the case of bladder cancer, a biopsy is usually performed during the cystoscopy when the doctor will use a special tool to put through the cystoscope to collect a tissue sample.
Imaging Tests: Various forms of imaging tests also allow doctors to examine the structure of the urinary tract, which can assist in diagnosing bladder cancer.
Survival of bladder cancer requires diligence on both the part of the patient and the doctor. Make sure your doctor knows if you took Actos (pioglitazole) or other prescription medications, get checkups regularly, and know the symptoms of Bladder Cancer.
Obtaining Treatment for Bladder Cancer
Determining the right therapies for you or your loved one takes time you do not have. You want the best treatment available, but finding it can seem daunting. Deciding on the best course of action is important. As part of that course, our cancer family advocates can assist you with questions regarding the various issues you may have.
We understand that your time is too valuable to spend hours on research. Therefore, we have compiled a list of cancer centers for your convenience. These centers are designated by the National Cancer Institute as Comprehensive Cancer Centers and are recognized for scientific excellence and extensive resources. This list will provide a good starting point for you to find treatment facilities in your area.
Bladder Cancer Treatment Options
Once you or your loved one is diagnosed with Bladder Cancer, researching to determine your course of action is time sensitive. You must quickly learn about this disease from a specialist and your doctor will run tests to learn how extensive the disease is and will designate a cancer stage based upon the test results. At that point, your medical team will discuss treatment options with you.
Bladder Cancer treatment is dependent upon several factors, including:
- Your cancer stage
- Whether or not it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs
- Your health and personal preferences
The cancer stage is an important aspect in deciding on the level and type of treatment. This is something you will want to discuss with your doctors so you have a good understanding of it.
According to the American Cancer Society, surgery has a higher likelihood of long-term benefits in earlier stages, particularly stage I. If your Bladder Cancer is in a late stage, such as stage IV, has progressed to cover an extensive part of your body, or you cannot tolerate an operation, then there are conventional treatment options, such as chemotherapy, that may slow the cancer growth, but will not result in a cure. Clinical trials may also be an option, and should be discussed with your doctor and family.
Regardless of the stage or level of your diagnosis, you should discuss with your doctors alleviating symptoms and pain management as part of your overall care.
There are various options to consider, including:
- Radiation therapy
- Pain-relieving drugs
- Natural remedies
Consult your doctor to determine what is appropriate for your situation.
It is important that you understand the goal of your Bladder Cancer treatment before it begins. First, you want to know whether the goal is to fight the cancer or relieve the symptoms. Additionally, you want to be clear on the benefits and risks of the various treatment options. Consider engaging the assistance of a victimís advocate, whether a family member or third-party, to assist you in tracking and recording conversations with your medical team. The best decisions can only be made after careful consideration of your diagnosis, and determining the most appropriate treatment options for your Bladder Cancer.
As mentioned, various treatments are available for Bladder Cancer. Here are some options:
Surgery: Surgery to remove the tumor is an option.
Intravesical Therapy: Intravesical Therapy consists of doctors inserting medicine into the bladder post-surgery to help prevent the cancer from coming back. New medications are currently being researched for use in Intravesical Therapy.
Photodynamic Therapy: Photodynamic Therapy is a newer treatment where a light-sensitive medication is injected into the blood and collects with the cancer cells. A unique laser-type light is then focused on the bladderís inner lining through a cystopscope and the light transforms the medication in the cancer cells into a chemical that hopefully kills them. The one drawback to this treatment is that only the cancerous cells on the surface of the bladder lining can be treated because the light cannot reach to the deeper cells.