Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that begins in your bladder . This organ is balloon-shaped and lies in your pelvic area. The function of the bladder is to store urine. Bladder cancer begins most often in the cells that line the inside of the bladder. Although it is not always clear what causes bladder cancer it has been linked to smoking, a parasitic infection, radiation and chemical exposure. It may occur at any age, but typically it affects older adults.
Risk factors include smoking, chronic bladder infections, exposure to certain chemicals such arsenic and chemicals used in the manufacture of dyes, rubber, leather, textiles and paint products, taking certain diabetic medications, as well as personal or family history of cancer. Usually bladder cancers are diagnosed at an early stage. However, even early-stage bladder cancer is likely to recur. For this reason, bladder cancer survivors often undergo follow-up tests to look for bladder cancer recurrence for years after treatment.
Typical Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
- Blood in urine (hematuria) — urine may appear dark yellow, bright red or cola colored. Or urine may appear normal, but blood may be detected in a microscopic examination of the urine
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Back pain
- Pelvic pain
Types of Bladder Cancer Include ( Image from Webmedicine.com):
- Transitional cell carcinoma. Transitional cell carcinoma occurs in the cells that line the inside of your bladder. Transitional cells expand when your bladder is full and contract when your bladder is empty. These same cells line the inside of your ureters and your urethra, and tumors can form in those places as well. Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer in the United States.
- Squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cells appear in your bladder in response to infection and irritation. Over time they can become cancerous. Squamous cell bladder cancer is rare in the United States. It’s more common in parts of the world where a certain parasitic infection (schistosomiasis) is a prevalent cause of bladder infections.
- Adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma begins in cells that make up mucus-secreting glands in the bladder. Adenocarcinoma of the bladder is rare in the United States.
- New cases: 74,690
- Deaths: 15,580
See the online booklet What You Need To Know About™ Bladder Cancer to learn about bladder cancer symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and questions to ask the doctor.
Role of Radiation Therapy in Bladder Cancer
The type of radiation most often used to treat bladder cancer, known as external beam radiation therapy, focuses radiation from a source outside of the body on the cancer.
When radiation therapy is given using implants, it is called internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy. A radiation therapy regimen (schedule) usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time.
Radiation therapy is usually not used by itself as a primary treatment for bladder cancer, but it may be given in combination with chemotherapy. However, some patients who cannot receive chemotherapy might receive radiation therapy alone.