Bladder cancer is most often found in the bladder lining. According to the American Cancer Society's projections, bladder cancer will affect about 81,180 people in the United States by the end of 2022. This article goes through frequently asked questions about Bladder Cancer, symptoms, treatments, and what you need to know.

What is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer usually begins in the cells that line the inside of the bladder. These cells are called transitional cells. Bladder cancer can also start in other cells in the bladder, such as muscle cells or blood vessel cells. It is the most common type of cancer found in the urinary tract. However, it can also occur in other urinary system parts, such as the kidneys and ureters.

Bladder cancer is most common among those over 55, affecting over 85% of individuals. Bladder cancer affects people most frequently at the age of 73 and older.

In recent years, new bladder cancers and death rates linked to bladder cancer have slightly declined among women, and incidence rates have decreased among males, but mortality rates have remained steady.

What are the Common Symptoms of Bladder Cancer? 

Symptoms of bladder cancer can include blood in the urine, pain when urinating, and feeling like you constantly have to go to the bathroom even if you don't have to go. Other symptoms can include:

  • Changes in urinary habits, such as needing to go more often, leaking urine, or feeling like you can't empty your bladder
  • Pain in your lower back or side
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

How Is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?

Bladder cancer is diagnosed through several tests, including a physical exam, urine test, cystoscopy, and biopsy. 

A physical exam can help your doctor feel for any lumps or abnormalities in the bladder. Urine tests can help detect blood or other abnormal cells in the urine.

Cystoscopy is a procedure where a tiny camera is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to look for abnormalities. A biopsy is when a small tissue sample is taken from the bladder to be examined for cancer cells.

What are the Stages of Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer is staged according to how far it has spread. There are four stages of bladder cancer:

Stage 1: The cancer is found in the bladder lining and has not spread to other parts of the urinary tract or other organs.

Stage 2: Cancer has spread to the bladder's muscle layer or other parts of the urinary tract but has not spread to other organs.

Stage 3: Bladder cancer has spread beyond the bladder to nearby tissues or organs, such as the prostate, uterus, or vagina.

Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other body parts, such as the lungs or bones.

What are the Treatment Options? Is it Fatal?

Treatment for bladder cancer depends on the stage of cancer. Treatment options can include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Stage 1: Bladder tumors that have not yet spread to the muscle layer are classified as stage I (T1).

Transurethral resection (TURBT) with fulguration is the preferred initial treatment for these diseases. However, it is utilized to determine the tumor's degree rather than attempting to cure it. If no additional therapy is used, many individuals will develop a more advanced bladder cancer that is more likely to occur if the first one is high-grade (rapid-growing).

A second TURBT is often recommended several weeks later, regardless of cancer's stage (slow-growing). Intravesical BCG or cystectomy would be alternatives.

Radical cystectomy will be suggested if the cancer is advanced, if many tumors are present, or if the cancer is enormous when it's initially discovered.

Stage 2: However, these malignancies have spread to only the muscle layer of the bladder wall (T2a and T2b). These types of cancer are treated with transurethral resection (TURBT), which is a procedure that removes part of the tumor. It's usually done as a first treatment for these tumors, but it's used to establish (stage) instead of curing them.

Radical cystectomy (bladder removal) is the usual treatment if cancer has spread to the muscle. Lymph nodes near the bladder are frequently removed as well. A partial cystectomy may be performed instead if cancer is found in just one bladder region. However, this happens in only a tiny percentage of persons.

Stage 3: Prostatic carcinoma is the most common form of bladder cancer in men. It has spread outside the bladder (T3) and may have grown into adjacent tissues or organs (T4) or lymph nodes (N1, N2, or N3). They have not metastasized to other areas of your body.

Bilateral cystectomy is the surgical technique doctors typically employ to remove bladder cancer. Because it's more invasive, TURBT is generally done first to determine how far the disease has spread into the bladder wall. Following chemotherapy, radical cystectomy is the most common therapy. Partial cystectomy is rarely an alternative for stage III cancers.

Chemotherapy (chemo) before surgery (with or without radiation) may help shrink the tumor, making surgery less complicated. Chemo can also eliminate any cancer cells that may have already spread throughout the body and allow people to live longer. It might be particularly beneficial for T4 tumors that have metastasized beyond the bladder.

If surgery to remove the bladder is delayed after chemo, it's not a big deal. The delay isn't an issue if the chemo kills cancer, but it might be deadly if it grows during the treatment. Intravesical therapy or chemotherapy with radiation may sometimes be used instead of surgery when the tumor is shrunk enough by the chemo.

Stage 4: Cancers in the pelvis or abdomen wall (T4b) have advanced this far and may have spread to neighboring lymph nodes and distant body areas. Stage IV malignancies are particularly difficult to remove altogether.

If cancer has not metastasized, chemotherapy (with or without radiation) is usually the first therapy. The tumor is then revisited. If it appears to be gone, chemo with or without radiation, cystectomy, switching to another type of chemotherapy, using an immunotherapy drug, or undergoing cystectomy are all possible choices.

Bladder cancer is generally treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation (M1). After this treatment, the tumor is reexamined. If it appears to be eliminated, extra radiation to the bladder or cystectomy may be given. Options include chemotherapy, radiation, both simultaneously, or immunotherapy if there are still signs of disease.

Bladder cancer can be fatal if it spreads to other body parts. The 5-year survival rate for stage 1 bladder cancer is nearly 100%, and for stage 4, about 5%. Early detection and treatment of bladder cancer can improve the chances of a successful outcome.

If you think you may have bladder cancer, talk to your doctor about getting tested.

Mississippi Urology Clinic Can Help

If you are experiencing any of the common symptoms of bladder cancer, it is essential to see a urologist as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment of bladder cancer can improve the chances of a successful outcome. Bladder cancer is a severe disease, but it is treatable. Mississippi Urology Clinic can help with your diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to contact us and set up an appointment with one of our professional Urologists.