Bladder Cancer

Overview

The bladder is a small organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine before it is released from the body. There are three types of bladder cancer: transitional cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common and affects the lining of the bladder. Often, doctors are able to detect bladder cancer early, but because bladder cancer has a high rate of recurrence, patients are carefully monitored even after treatment. Bladder cancer is most common in patients over age 40, but can occur in any age group.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine – which may or may not be visible to the naked eye – the frequent urge to urinate, pain during urination, lower back and pelvic pain. Blood in the urine may be red or may cause changes in the color of the urine.

Diagnosis and Staging

Bladder cancer can be diagnosed and staged through a number of tests. Urine cytology is a common test; a microscopic analysis of urine for cancer cells. A cytoscopy is a diagnostic procedure in which a fiber-optic tube is inserted into the urethra and bladder so the doctor can see inside. A tissue sample is collected for biopsy during the cytoscopy if evidence of cancer is present. Imaging tests offer further views of the urinary tract for diagnosis.

As part of the diagnostic process, cancer is staged. The stage of cancer is one of the many factors that determine the course of treatment. During Stage I bladder cancer, the cancerous cells have invaded the lining of the organ, but have not spread into the wall. By Stage II, the muscular bladder wall is affected, but the cancer has not spread outside the bladder. Stage III marks the spread of cancer to tissue surrounding the bladder, but cancer is still localized. In Stage IV, cancer metastasizes and spreads to other organs and lymph nodes.

Causes

Bladder cancer occurs when mutations in DNA cause the cells to grow and divide in an uncontrolled and abnormal way. The mechanism behind this uncontrolled growth is unknown, however, risk factors include smoking, frequent bladder infection, exposure to chemicals or radiation, certain medications and family history. Doctors also note that white males over the age of 40 are at the greatest risk. Continue for Prevention information . . .

Pages: 1 2