The bladder has many layers. Bladder cancer usually begins in the inside lining, known as the urothelium or transitional epithelium. It worsens when the cancer grows into or through other layers of the bladder wall. Most bladder cancers are diagnosed early, making them highly treatable.
Bladder cancer is three times more likely in men than in women and mainly occurs in people over the age of 70. It is the 6th most common cancer in the United States.
Types of Bladder Cancer
Urothelial carcinoma (transitional cell carcinoma): Starting in the urothelial cells inside the bladder, urothelial carcinomas account for most bladder cancer cases. Urothelial cells line other areas of the urinary tract, including the renal pelvis connecting the kidney to the ureter, the ureters and the urethra. Those must be checked for tumors as well.
Squamous cell carcinoma: This type, just 2% or less of bladder cancer cases, produces flat cancer cells that under a microscope resemble cells on the skin surface. Squamous cell carcinomas might develop after the bladder has been infected or irritated for a long time and they are invasive, meaning they may spread to surrounding tissues.
Adenocarcinoma: This form of cancer starts in cells that compose mucus-secreting glands in the bladder. Aggressive in nature, adenocarcinomas comprise only 1% of cases.
Small cell carcinoma: Fewer than 1% of bladder cancer cases involve small cell carcinomas. They begin in neuroendocrine cells, similar to nerve and endocrine cells, and may be fast-growing.
Bladder cancer produces symptoms in many people, but not in everyone. Symptoms include:
- Blood in the urine, which may or may not be visible to the naked eye. It is often painless. If you see blood in your urine, contact your doctor immediately, even if it goes away.
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate.
- Pain when urinating.
- Lower abdominal pain.
- Back pain.
These symptoms can also be indications of other conditions such as a urinary tract infection or kidney stones. If you experience them, get in touch with your physician right away.
- Smoking is the greatest risk factor, causing about half of all cases in men and women. Smokers are three times more likely than non-smokers to develop bladder cancer. Quitting smoking reduces the risk.
- Workplace exposure to certain industrial and organic chemicals. The risk is especially high for people who smoke and work around these substances.
- Not drinking enough fluids.
- Chronic bladder irritations and infections, genetics and family history are among other risk factors.
- Caucasians are about twice more likely to develop bladder cancer than are African Americans and Hispanics, with rates somewhat lower for Asian Americans and Native Americans. The reasons for these differences are not well understood.
The appropriate treatment for bladder cancer is typically based on the type of bladder cancer and the grade and stage of disease.
Low-stage bladder cancers are typically treated by removing the tumor through the urethra. Sometimes we follow this treatment with chemotherapy or immunotherapy to make sure all of the cancer cells are gone and reduce the chances of the cancer coming back.
Higher-stage tumors often require more significant treatment, which could include chemotherapy, radiation or possibly removing the bladder. We tailor each patient’s treatment to their unique needs.
Outstanding Bladder Cancer Care
The Overlake Cancer Center is affiliated with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, providing state-of-the-art urologic cancer care with our renowned compassion and focus on all aspects of your wellbeing. To make an appointment or for answers to any questions you may have, call us today at 425-454-8016.