Ask the Expert: Bladder Cancer

Six Common Questions About Bladder Cancer

In recognition of Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Aleksandar Jankov, an oncologist with Baptist Medical Group’s Family Cancer Center Foundation, is this month’s Ask the Expert on the topic.

[toggle title=”How many people contract bladder cancer every year? Is it more common in men or women?” state=”open”]Roughly 75,000 new bladder cancer cases will occur in the U.S. in 2014, and about 15,000 people will die from the disease this year. Bladder cancer accounts for 2.7 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. Although it is more common in men, women tend to present with more advanced cases and are less likely to survive.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”What causes bladder cancer?” state=”close”]Several risk factors can increase the risk for bladder cancer, including smoking and exposure to chemicals known as aromatic amines that are in paint, dye, rubber, textiles, leather and printing materials. Age is another major risk factor; 90 percent of patients diagnosed with bladder cancer are older than 55. Finally, bladder cancer occurs more frequently in whites than other racial/ethnic groups.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”What are signs and symptoms of bladder cancer?” state=”close”]Blood in the urine, called hematuria, which is usually painless in early stages, is the most common and significant symptom. Another symptom is urgent, frequent urination. If addressed and investigated promptly, it leads to early diagnosis of bladder cancer, when patients have an excellent prognosis and cure rate. In later stages, patients may experience an inability to urinate or pain in one side of the body between the upper belly area and the back, known as flank pain.
[/toggle] [toggle title=”How is bladder cancer diagnosed?” state=”close”] Bladder cancer is diagnosed by performing a procedure called cystoscopy. This brief outpatient procedure allows urologists to inspect the inside of the bladder and take a biopsy of the suspicious area. The biopsy not only establishes a diagnosis but helps with staging.[/toggle] [toggle title=”How is bladder cancer treated? Is there a cure?” state=”close”] When found early, bladder cancer is quite curable and has a survival rate exceeding 95 percent. If it is diagnosed in more advanced stages, the outlook is not as good. Superficial forms of bladder cancer are frequently treated by putting medication directly in the bladder cavity, also called intravesical therapy. A surgical procedure called transurethral resection of the bladder tumor, which leaves the bladder in place, is the most frequently performed procedure on patients in the early stages of bladder cancer. Radical cystectomy, a more extensive operation that removes the whole bladder, is performed in more advanced, invasive stages of bladder cancer. Both procedures are performed with the intent to cure.

A combination of chemotherapy and radiation is sometimes used in patients who cannot undergo surgery. Chemotherapy is the mainstay of treatment when cancer spreads outside the bladder to other organs.[/toggle] [toggle title=”What are some common misconceptions about bladder cancer?” state=”close”] The most common misconception is not understanding that tobacco smoking is a very significant risk factor for the development of bladder cancer. Patients, when diagnosed, are frequently incredulous when told that cigarette smoking led to their bladder cancer.