Bladder Cancer: FAQs

Bladder cancer is the nation’s sixth most common form of cancer with more than 73,000 new cases and about 15,000 deaths each year. Even though it is very common, it is one form of cancer that most people know very little about. Bladder cancer, also referred to as urothelial carcinoma, begins when the cells in the lining of the bladder start to grow out of control. It may also occur anywhere in the urethra, renal pelvis and ureters.

The most common symptom is blood in the urine. Other symptoms include irritation when urinating, urgency, and frequency of urination. These are also common symptoms of a urinary tract infection. If you have any of these symptoms, go see your doctor.

The exact causes remain unknown, but smoking has been found to be the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer, with smokers getting bladder cancer twice as often as people who don’t smoke. Other risk factors include exposure to carcinogens in the environment. Workers in the rubber, chemical and leather industries are at risk, as are hairdressers, machinists, metal workers, painters, textile workers and firefighters.

There are many tests your doctor can use including ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRI scans to detect irregularities in the bladder wall, which would suggest a possible cancer. The urologist will also perform a cystoscopy by looking inside the bladder with a long thin camera to visually examine your bladder and remove samples of any suspicious areas for biopsy. Urine cytology can be performed to detect cancer cells in urine. Other tests use urine­-based markers to detect cells or substances in a urine sample that are relatively specific to bladder cancer.

Bladder Preservation Therapy –Although bladder removal, with or without chemotherapy, is the treatment usually offered for muscle ­invasive bladder cancer, for some patients it might be possible to use high­ dose external beam radiation therapy in combination with chemotherapy. This allows the patient to keep their bladder, and still leaves the possibility of removing the bladder later if tumors recur.

There are many bladder cancer support groups across the United States. Visit www.bcan.org to find one near you. There is also an online support community available to survivors, caregivers and loved ones 24 hours a day. It is free to join and more than 5,000 members have posted thousands of different discussions supporting each other in battling bladder cancer. There are also general cancer support groups through hospitals and the Cancer Support Community.

Seek medical help: The most important thing you can do if you suspect you may have bladder cancer is to see a physician, preferably a urologist as soon as possible. Most bladder cancers can be treated effectively with early detection. If you are found to have bladder cancer – do not lose hope! Today, there are more than one ­half million bladder cancer survivors in the U.S. alone.

Use these links to find out more about bladder cancer:

Support for Cancer Patients

The Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center is a specialty healthcare facility dedicated entirely to the treatment of many kinds of cancer. Our Palmer cancer center connects patients with surgeons and other specialists. Contact us today at (714) 962-7100.