Bladder Cancer

What is Bladder Cancer?

The bladder is a hollow muscular organ that stores urine excreted by the kidneys, before it is emptied from the body by means of urination. Cancer that starts in the urinary bladder is known as bladder cancer.

Although the exact cause of bladder cancer is unknown, certain factors can make you more susceptible. These can include smoking, exposure to harmful chemicals, chemotherapy therapy, radiation therapy, and chronic bladder infections.

Symptoms

Symptoms can include blood in the urine, painful and frequent urination, urinary incontinence, weight loss, fatigue and abdominal pain.

Investigations

If you are experiencing any of these complaints, your doctor may perform a thorough physical examination including a rectal examination, pelvic exam in women or a prostate exam in men. Your doctor may order other tests such as an abdominal CT scan, MRI scan, bladder biopsy, urinalysis, urine cytology (study of urine cells) and flexible cystoscopy (the bladder is examined for abnormalities using a camera) to confirm the diagnosis. If cancer is discovered, other tests are conducted to determine whether the tumour has invaded surrounding tissues or if it has metastasised (spread) to other parts of the body. This is known as staging.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, stage of cancer and your overall health. Treatment options for bladder cancer include surgery to remove the cancer, which can be performed alone or in combinations with other treatments. Chemotherapy (using cancer-killing drugs) and radiation therapy (using high-dose radiation) may be performed before or after surgery to destroy the cancer cells. Your doctor may also perform immunotherapy (which uses the immune system) to attack and kill cancer cells.