What it is

Bladder cancer is a cancer that occurs in the lining of the urinary bladder. This lining, known as 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 or urgent urination. 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 is 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 or tissue sampling will be performed.

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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. TURBT is typically performed in the operating room under general anesthesia as an outpatient or 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 drug that is placed into the bladder once a week for a period of time. The medication is instilled into the bladder through a temporary catheter.

Partial cystectomy is an alternative to complete bladder removal (radical cystectomy) for very 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. Chemotherapy may be indicated either before or after surgery. Your urologist will often work with a medical oncologist who specializes in chemotherapy to help make those decisions.

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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