Approximately 70,000 cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed every year in the US with 15,000 deaths yearly. If caught early bladder cancer is highly treatable. Risk factors for developing bladder cancer include smoking, exposure to toxins (certain dyes, rubber and chemicals), prior radiation therapy to the pelvis and chronic bladder inflammation. Older white men are diagnosed more frequently than any other population, but bladder cancer has been diagnosed in men and women of all races.
Symptoms of bladder cancer can mimic those of a urinary tract infection (blood in the urine, lower abdominal pain, frequent urination and burning on urination). For this reason it is very important to seek medical attention if you develop these symptoms.
Diagnosis of bladder cancer includes urine tests to look for cancer cells under the microscope and an examination to look in the bladder called cystoscopy. This is a very simple procedure done in the office with local anesthesia where in the bladder is examined with a telescope by placing a small catheter like tube into the bladder through the urethra.
If bladder cancer is found a biopsy is then scheduled. Often times either CT scan or MRI of the abdomen is performed to determine the stage of the cancer. Treatment then depends on whether the cancer has spread through the lining of the bladder into the muscle wall.If the cancer has not invaded the bladder wall then once the tumor has been removed treatment may involve instilling certain medicines into the bladder on a weekly basis for 6 weeks. This therapy depends upon the the grade and stage of the tumor.
If the tumor has invaded the muscle wall then often times removal of the bladder is necessary. This may be performed in addition to chemotherapy given either before or after surgery. Removal of the bladder can be done either robotically or in an open fashion. The urinary tract is reconstructed so that urine drains into a bag on the abdominal wall (stoma) or a new urinary bladder is made out of intestine and sewn to the urethra so the patient voids normally.(neobladder)
At Greenville Health System we have an experienced team of surgeons with specialized training in robotic surgery and creation of neobladders. This less invasive approach means a faster recovery from surgery and better quality of life. Like most cancers early detection is very important. Bladder cancer is highly treatable if caught at an early stage.