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Bladder Cancer (Cancer of the Urinary Bladder)

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Bladder cancer facts

  • The bladder is a hollow organ that collects urine from the kidneys through the ureters for storage and eventual removal from the body through the urethra. Bladder cancer is the abnormal growth of bladder cells and is a common cancer; men have a higher risk of getting bladder cancer than women.
  • The most common symptom of bladder cancer is bleeding in the urine (hematuria).
  • Cigarette smoking is the most significant risk factor for bladder cancer, with smokers three to four times more likely to get the disease than nonsmokers.
  • Bladder cancer can be subdivided into noninvasive, or superficial, and invasive, with the former having much better treatment outcomes than the latter.
  • The initial treatment for bladder cancer is transurethral resection of the bladder tumor (TURBT), which removes the tumor from the bladder through the urethra and provides information regarding both stage and grade of the tumor.
  • Bladder cancer is staged (classified by the extent of spread of the cancer) and graded (how abnormal and/or aggressive the cells appear under the microscope) to both determine treatments and estimate prognosis for individual patients.
  • Low-grade superficial tumors (Ta) are treated with TURBT followed by an optional instillation of a chemotherapy medication in the bladder to reduce recurrence rates. These tumors have high recurrence rates but a very low chance of progression to higher stages.
  • High-grade T1 tumors have high chances of recurrence and progression and may need additional treatment in the form of BCG or chemotherapy instillation in the bladder. Patients unresponsive to these may be best treated by radical cystectomy (bladder removal).
  • Radical cystectomy provides the best chances of cure in patients with muscle invasive bladder cancer.
  • Systemic, usually intravenous chemotherapy is used in patients with metastatic disease at presentation or those in which bladder cancer cells are present outside the bladder wall or in lymph nodes during radical cystectomy.
  • The prognosis of bladder cancer ranges from good to poor and depends on the stage and grade of the cancer.
  • People may reduce the risk of bladder cancer by not smoking and by avoiding environmental carcinogens.
  • Informational and support groups are available for anyone concerned about bladder cancer.

What is the bladder?

The urinary bladder, or the bladder, is a hollow organ in the pelvis. Most of it lies behind the pubic bone of the pelvis, but when full of urine, it can extend up into the lower part of the abdomen. Its primary function is to store urine that drains into it from the kidney through tube-like structures called the ureters. The ureters from both the kidneys open into the urinary bladder. The bladder forms a low-pressure reservoir that gradually stretches out as urine fills into it. In males, the prostate gland is located adjacent to the base of the bladder where urethra joins the bladder. From time to time, the muscular wall of the bladder contracts to expel urine through the urinary passage (urethra) into the outside world. The normal volume of the full bladder is about 400 ml-600 ml, or about 2 cups.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/26/2016


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