Bladder Cancer

It’s not unusual for people who show signs of bladder cancer to assume it’s something less serious. That’s because symptoms are similar to other medical conditions, such as urinary tract infections and overactive bladder.

If you’ve noticed changes in your urination habits or blood in your urine, please don’t try to diagnose it yourself. Instead, talk to your doctor who will pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.

What is Bladder Cancer? 

Your bladder is a stretchy, hollow sac that stores urine. It’s located in your lower abdomen and can be about the size of a grapefruit.

If cells within your bladder begin to grow abnormally, they can form a cancerous tumor. Most bladder cancer starts in the cells that line the inside of your bladder.

Symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Blood in your urine.
  • Pain or burning during urination.
  • Having to urinate more often.
  • Difficulty urinating, including a slow or weak stream.
  • Pelvic or back pain.

Risk factors for bladder cancer include:

  • Age (it typically occurs in people over 55).
  • Gender (bladder cancer is far more common in men).
  • A history of tobacco use.
  • Exposure to certain industrial dyes or chemicals.
  • Exposure to chemotherapy during previous cancer treatment.
  • A history of chronic bladder infections, bladder stones or prolonged use of indwelling catheters.

Bladder cancer is usually diagnosed during a procedure called a cystoscopy. A doctor will use a special camera to look inside your bladder. You may also need to have X-rays or CT scans taken of your upper or lower urinary tract, which includes your kidneys, ureters and urethra.

Bladder Cancer Treatment at Mercy

Whether we caught your cancer early, or it has already spread beyond your bladder, Mercy can help. We have experience treating all types of bladder cancer, and use bladder-saving techniques whenever possible.

Your treatment strategy will depend on several factors. These include your age, gender, stage of your cancer and whether it has spread. Your doctor may recommend you have one or more types of treatment, including:

  • Surgery.
  • Medication, including immunotherapy or chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be “intravesical” (put directly into the bladder) or systemic (it travels throughout the body).
  • Radiation therapy.

There are several surgical options for people with bladder cancer, including:

  • A common, minimally invasive procedure that kills cancer cells with an electric current or laser. It’s called transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) and usually doesn’t require a hospital stay.
  • Surgery to remove part of your bladder (partial cystectomy).
  • Surgery to remove your entire bladder (radical cystectomy). If your bladder is completely removed, your doctor will also perform a type of surgery called “urinary diversion.” It creates a new way for urine to leave your body.

Most people who have bladder cancer only need TURBT treatment. Once the cancer is gone, patients need occasional cystoscopy exams to make sure the tumor has not grown back. Some people with aggressive or recurrent cancer may periodically need to have medicine put in their bladder. This may help decrease the risk of cancer spreading or coming back.

Treatment for Bladder Cancer in Men

Men who need radical cystectomy usually have their prostate and seminal vesicles removed, too. This means you will no longer be able to produce semen. If you’re concerned about having children, talk to your Mercy physician. He or she can recommend options to preserve healthy sperm before you begin treatment.

Treatment for Bladder Cancer in Women

Women who undergo radical cystectomy may also have their ovaries and uterus removed. Because bladder cancer typically occurs in people over 55, treatment is much less likely to impact female fertility. However, if you're a woman who develops bladder cancer at a younger age, and you want to have children, talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

We know facing cancer can be overwhelming. At Mercy, you’ll find the expert care and emotional support you need to conquer your fears—and your cancer.

Bladder Infection vs. Bladder Cancer

How to Know Which is Which

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