What it is

Bladder cancer is an abnormal growth in the lining of the urinary bladder or urothelium. The urothelium lines the inside of the kidneys and ureters, the tubes that drain the kidneys into the bladder.

What to look for

The earliest sign of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, and sometimes, frequent urination or urgency to urinate. However, these same symptoms can be caused by non-cancerous conditions such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and an enlarged prostate gland. See your physician for a definitive diagnosis.

How it’s diagnosed

Bladder cancer may be diagnosed by a urologist using a small telescope to evaluate the lining of the bladder (cystoscopy). Other diagnostic methods include urine cytology (evaluating a urine sample for abnormal cells) and imaging (ultrasound, CT scan, MRI and CT urogram) to detect abnormalities in the bladder, kidneys or ureters. If a growth or tumor is noted, a biopsy will be performed.

TURBT (transurethral resection of bladder tumor) is a procedure where the urologist uses a cystoscope to shave the bladder tumor off the inside wall of the bladder. It is typically performed under general anesthesia as a same-day procedure. Occasionally, a catheter is needed after the procedure to help the bladder heal. Your urologist can determine if further treatment is needed based on the tumor features.

Intravesical Therapy involves placing medication into the bladder to help prevent cancer from recurring and potentially progressing. Often, this is a chemotherapy or immunotherapy placed into the bladder once a week for a period of time. The medication is instilled into the bladder through a catheter, which is then removed.

Partial cystectomy is an alternative to full bladder removal (radical cystectomy) for special situations, such as when invasive bladder cancer is noted on TURBT and there is no other cancer elsewhere in the bladder. The tumor must be located in a certain area of the bladder for partial cystectomy to be considered.

Chemotherapy is medication given to treat bladder cancer when it has advanced through the first layers of the bladder or spread to other parts of the body. Your urologist will often work with a medical oncologist who specializes in chemotherapy to help administer the medications.

Radiation Therapy may be used to treat bladder cancer after a TURBT is performed. Often this is combined with chemotherapy. Learn more about our radiation services at our Center of Excellence.

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