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What Is Bladder Cancer?

The bladder is the organ that stores urine before it leaves the body. The bladder lining consists of transitional cells. Nearly 95% of all bladder cancers start from these cells (transitional cell carcinoma). Bladder cancer is a malignant tumor in this organ and may be small or large, growing deep into the bladder muscle, and it may spread (metastasize).

The other two types are squamous carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. These tumors are usually larger and often go into the bladder wall and may metastasize.

Bladder cancer develops most often in people older than 50. Men have bladder cancer more often than women do.

What Causes Bladder Cancer?

Many things can cause bladder cancer, most often cigarette smoking. Usually the exact cause is unknown. Chemicals used at jobs in dye, textile, tire, rubber, and petroleum industries are another cause.

What Are the Symptoms of Bladder Cancer?

Very small cancers usually cause no symptoms, but blood in the urine, burning when urinating, or needing to urinate small amounts are possible symptoms.

Larger tumors cause more symptoms, such as pain low in the belly or losing weight.

How Is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?

The health care provider will do an examination and order a urine test to see if the urine shows blood, signs of infection, or abnormal (cancerous) cells.

The health care provider may also order blood tests and tests of the kidneys and liver function.

X-rays of the bladder and urinary tract, ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scans, and cystoscopy (using a lighted tube to see inside the bladder) may also be done. If abnormal areas are found, a piece of tissue (biopsy specimen) is taken for study under a microscope.

How Is Bladder Cancer Treated?

Surgery is needed to remove the cancer. The operation depends on the type of cancer and whether it has spread.

A small or large tumor is removed by endoscopy (using a lighted tube inserted into the bladder). For a very large cancer, the whole bladder may need to be taken out (radical cystectomy). After this operation, urine will empty out through a pouch through the skin (urostomy), which needs special care.

Pain pills, radiation treatment, and anticancer medicine (chemotherapy) may also be needed.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Bladder Cancer:

  • DO take pills as your health care provider prescribes.
  • DO resume normal activities (including sexual relations) after surgery or other treatment when your health care provider says you can.
  • DO call your health care provider if you had surgery and have new symptoms of infection (back pain, fever, and vomiting).
  • DO call your health care provider if you have blood in your urine; you feel the need to urinate frequently, with urgency, or with hesitancy; or if urination is painful.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have pain or trouble with erections after surgery.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have excess bleeding, fever, and chills after cystoscopy.
  • DON’T smoke.
  • DON’T be frustrated if superficial cancer returns. The cancer can be controlled with close follow-up care and tumor removal.
  • DON’T miss follow-up health care provider appointments, including cystoscopy every few months for the first year.

Contact the following sources:

  • The American Cancer Society
    Tel: (800) ACS-2345 (227-2345)
  • The National Cancer Institute Cancer Information Service
    Tel: (800) 4-CANCER (422-6237)

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

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