Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the bladder, an organ in your pelvic area responsible for storing urine. This cancer most often begins in the inner lining of the bladder and is usually discovered before it has spread past this lining.
The World Cancer Research Fund ranks bladder cancer as the ninth most common cancer in the world. It is also four times more likely to occur in men compared with women. The good news is that the great majority of bladder cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is still highly treatable.
If you have just learnt that you or a loved one has bladder cancer, there are several resources available to you as you begin your cancer journey. Whether you want to learn more about the types and stages of bladder cancer, or you’d like more information about the various treatment options available, this section provides an overview about bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that begins in your bladder. Your bladder is a hollow balloon-shaped organ that’s main function is to store urine until it is ready to be expelled.
Bladder cancer develops most often in the cells that line the inside of the bladder. These cells begin to grow abnormally and uncontrollably, leading to the formation of cancerous masses called tumors. The cancer can then grow into or through other layers of the bladder and spread (mestasise) to other parts of the body. As the cancer grows through the layers, it becomes more advanced and harder to treat.
Bladder cancer typically affects older people, however it can occur at any age. Bladder cancer can usually be treated successfully if it is found and treated early. However, even early-stage bladder cancer is likely to recur. For this reason, bladder cancer survivors often undergo follow-up tests to look for bladder cancer recurrence for years after treatment.
The vast majority of patients diagnosed with bladder cancer have transitional cell cancer, also referred to as urothelial carcinoma. The remaining minority of patients have other types including squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma or small cell cancer. Your bladder cancer type determines which treatment may work best for you.
Researchers are not yet certain what causes bladder cancer. There are, however, a number of factors, such as smoking cigarettes or exposure to certain chemicals, that are known to raise your risk. To find out more about these risk factors or the measures you can take to prevent bladder cancer, see prevention.
Bladder cancer is most treatable when caught early. It is highly advisable to speak with your doctor about your risk factors and any symptoms you might be experiencing. Symptoms associated with bladder cancer include:
If your symptoms indicate you might have bladder cancer, your doctor will use one or more of the following methods to determine whether you have the disease.
Once bladder cancer is confirmed, your doctor may order additional tests to determine how far the cancer has spread. These may include imaging tests, bone scans and chest x-rays.
The extent of your cancer is expressed as stages I to IV. As a rule, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. Knowing your stage of bladder cancer is extremely important when choosing the best treatment.
The treatments available to you depend on a number of factors including the type and stage of your bladder cancer, your age and your overall health. There is a lot for you to think about when choosing the best way to treat or manage your cancer, so talk to your doctor about your treatment options and ask him or her any question you might have.
The main types of treatment for bladder cancer are:
While there is no sure way to prevent bladder cancer, you may be able to reduce some of your risk of getting it. This includes: