Bladder cancer overview.
Bladder cancer is diagnosed when malignant cells form in the lining of the bladder. Generally, bladder cancer starts as a non-invasive cancer as it forms within the inner layers of the bladder. Urothelium cell carcinoma or transitional cell carcinoma, is the most common form of bladder cancer.
Invasive bladder cancer pierces through the inner layers of the bladder and moves into deeper layers. Once the cancer has moved into deeper layers, it is more prone to metastasize to other areas of the body and is much more difficult to treat.
Bladder cancer is the fourth leading cancer among men, and is most prevalent in individuals older than 55. The average age of this cancer diagnosis is 73.
Types of bladder cancer
There are several different types of bladder cancer. Treatment will depend on the type of cancer diagnosed.
- Urothelium or transitional cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in cells that line the inside of the bladder. This is the most common type of bladder cancer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells. These are thin, flat cells that are normally not found in the bladder. These cells can form due to certain infections or long-term irritation of the bladder caused by bladder stones or an indwelling urinary catheter.
- Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Glandular cells in the lining of the bladder produce and release fluids such as mucus.
- Small cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in neuroendrocrine cells in the bladder (nerve-like cells).
- Sarcoma: Cancer that begins in bladder muscle cells.
Bladder cancer risk factors
The incidence of this cancer increases with age. Along with age, there are several other risk factors:
- Gender – Men are more likely to develop this cancer.
- Race – Causacians are more likely to develop this cancer.
- Cigarette smokers – Smokers are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop this cancer.
- Exposure to certain chemicals.
- Chronic infections or inflammation of the bladder.
- Some medications and supplements.
- Arsenic in drinking water.
- Genetics / family history.
- Radiation therapy in the pelvic region.
- Cancer drugs such as cyclophosphamide may increase risk.
Symptoms of bladder cancer
Blood in the urine
This form of cancer does not have notable symptoms in its early stages. However, a common symptom is hematuria or blood in the urine. Oftentimes, blood in the urine is found as an incidental finding during a routine urinalysis. This unseen form of blood is called microscopic hematuria. Blood that can be visibly seen is gross hematuria.
Having blood in the urine does not mean that individuals definitely have cancer. In fact, there are several urologic conditions in which hematuria is a symptom. These conditions include: infection, bladder or kidney stones, and an enlarged prostate.
Less common symptoms include:
- Urinary urgency (sudden need to urinate).
- Frequent urination.
- Dysuria (painful urination)
Again, urgency, frequency, and painful urination are symptoms of other urologic conditions and do not necessarily point to cancer.
Additional risk factors
- Abdominal/flank pain.
- Weight loss.
- Back pain.
If you have a family history of bladder cancer and are experiencing these symptoms, contact Urology Austin for an evaluation.