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Bladder Cancer

What is Bladder Cancer?

The bladder is a hollow organ that stores urine that is made in the kidneys. Urine flows into the bladder through thin tubes called ureters and leaves the bladder through another tube called the urethra. The wall of the bladder is made of multiple layers. Bladder cancer begins in the lining layer and grows into the bladder wall. As the cancer grows through the layers into the wall of the bladder, it becomes harder to treat. Bladder tumors are grouped by the way the cancer cells look under a microscope. The type of bladder cancer you have can affect your treatment options because different types respond to different treatments.

Transitional cell carcinoma: This is by far the most common type of bladder cancer. It starts in the cells that line the bladder -- the urothelial cells. It is also called urothelial carcinoma. Within this group there are subtypes. They are named based on the shape of the cells and whether they tend to spread and invade other organs.

Squamous cell carcinoma: This type is much less common and is usually invasive.

Adenocarcinoma: This type is also much less common and almost all are invasive.

Small cell: A very small number of bladder cancers are of this type.

While there are other types of bladder cancer, they are very rare. There are also a number of bladder tumors that are benign or not cancerous.

Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

The exact cause of bladder cancer is unknown, but we do know that certain risk factors are linked to the disease. Some of the risk factor include smoking, work exposure, race, age, gender, chronic bladder inflammation, personal and family history of bladder cancer and bladder birth defects.

Can Bladder Cancer be prevented?

At this time, there is no sure way to prevent bladder cancer. The best way to lower your risk is not to smoke. It's also important to follow good work safety habits if you work with chemicals called aromatic amines. A recent study has found that drinking plenty of fluids (mainly water) could lower the risk of bladder cancer. A diet high in fruits and vegetables also seems to protect against bladder cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

The most coming signs and symptoms include blood in the urine and changes in bladder habits.

Test to Find Bladder Cancer

  • Medical History and Physical Exam
  • Cystoscopy
  • Urine Cytology
  • Urine Culture
  • Biopsy
  • Bladder Tumor Marker Studies

Imaging Studies

  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
  • Retrograde pyelography
  • Chest x-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound
  • Bone Scan

Treatment for Bladder Cancer

The main types of treatment for bladder cancer are surgery, radiation therapy,   immunotherapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery, alone or along with other treatments, is used in more than 9 out of 10 cases.