Bladder Cancer

What is Bladder Cancer?

As the name implies, bladder cancer is a malignant growth or cancer that starts inside the bladder.  We do not hear much about bladder cancer, but it is actually one of the 5 or 6 most common cancers in the U.S.  It is more common in men than women and usually occurs later in life, beyond age 50 or so.

What Causes Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer often results from exposure to chemicals or toxins in the environment or the workplace.  Many things have been identified as risk factors over the years.  Most of these substances are no longer in use or are in very limited use. There may also be a genetic component but this is a little less clear.  Today, the most important risk factor is smoking.  The majority of people who develop bladder cancer these days have been heavy smokers at one time or another.  Other, less common, causes include:
⦁    Some chemotherapy drugs used to treat other types of cancer.
⦁    Radiation for rectal cancer, uterine cancer, prostate cancer, etc.
⦁    Parasites that are found in Africa and parts of the Middle East

How Do I Know if I Have Bladder Cancer?

As the name implies, bladder cancer is a malignant growth or cancer that starts inside the bladder.  We do not hear much about bladder cancer, but it is actually one of the 5 or 6 most common cancers in the U.S.  It is more common in men than women and usually occurs later in life, beyond age 50 or so.

How is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?

There are no tests to screen or check for bladder cancer on a routine basis.  If we suspect bladder cancer because of blood in the urine or other symptoms, we usually do 3 things:
⦁    A procedure called cystoscopy where a urologist uses a tiny, fiberoptic scope to look in the bladder.

⦁    An x-ray study called a CT urogram.  This is a special CT scan (or CAT scan) designed to look at the kidneys and bladder.
⦁    A special urine test looking for cancer cells in the urine.
 

How is Bladder Cancer Treated?

It is important to know that there are different degrees or stages of bladder cancer.  About 80% of bladder cancers are what we call superficial.  In other words, these cancers are limited to the lining layer of the bladder.  Superficial bladder cancers are rarely dangerous and only rarely spread to other parts of the body.

On the other hand, some bladder cancers start in the lining of the bladder but then can grow or invade deeply into the wall of the bladder.  These cancers are more dangerous and often spread to other parts of the body.

First and foremost, if you are a smoker, stop smoking.  Your family doctor can help you with this or you can call the Montana Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).  or montana.quitlogix.org.

The first step in treating any bladder cancer is to do a procedure called transurethral resection (TURBT).  To do this a urologist inserts an instrument into the bladder through the urethra (urinary channel) and uses a special tool to “carve out” or “chip out” the tumor.  Afterwards, a pathologist looks at the cancer under the microscope and tells us whether it is superficial or whether it has grown into the bladder wall (invasive).

Following TURBT, whether or not additional treatment is needed and what it should be depends upon whether the cancer is superficial or invasive.
⦁    Superficial cancers often need no additional treatment other than surveillance (periodic checkups) to be sure there is no recurrence.
⦁    Superficial cancers that are large, high-grade or that recur, are often treated with medications that we put in the bladder on a periodic basis.
⦁    Invasive cancers are often treated with surgery to remove the bladder.
⦁    Chemotherapy is sometimes used in combination with surgery for invasive cancers or for cancers that have spread to other parts of the body.
 

Although this has been a very short discussion of a very complex subject, we hope we have given you a little insight into the nature of bladder cancer and what we can do about it.

Call Gallatin Urology (406-551-2306) for an appointment if you would like more information or if you have concerns about bladder cancer.