Bladder cancer is a malignant tumor of the bladder, the hollow, muscular organ that stores urine. It is the sixth most common cancer in the United States, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. More than 50,000 new cases of bladder cancer are detected every year.
The greatest risk factor for bladder cancer is smoking. Risk also increases with age: bladder cancer is rare in people under 40.
Men are affected three times more often than women, and Caucasians have twice the risk of African Americans or Hispanics.
Exposure to certain workplace chemicals and family history of the disease are also associated with increased risk of developing bladder cancer.
Common symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in urine and frequent, painful urination.
However, these symptoms are not caused only by bladder cancer. They may result from other problems, including urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and an enlarged prostate gland. Therefore, getting a correct diagnosis is very important.
When bladder cancer is found and treated early, the chances for survival are very good.
Surgery to remove all or part of the bladder is the common treatment. The type of surgery depends largely on the size of the tumor, how far it has spread, and how quickly it is spreading.
Partial cystectomy, the removal of a segment of the bladder, is an option when the tumor is low-grade and has affected only one area of the bladder.
When the cancer is aggressive or involves a large part of the bladder, radical cystectomy, the removal of the entire bladder and surrounding structures, is performed.
The Department of Urology's surgeons are specialists in partial and radical cystectomy for the treatment of bladder cancer. They are also recognized experts in orthotopic neobladder reconstruction — the creation of a new, working bladder using a part of the bowel.
For many patients who require a cystectomy, the procedure is a desirable alternative to wearing a bag to drain urine. When this reconstruction is performed by highly experienced surgeons, the new bladder gives patients the ability to urinate without the need for a catheter and significantly improves their quality of life.
In addition to clinical practice, the Department of Urology is conducting ongoing research into how bladder cancer develops and progresses. And clinical trials are under way to investigate new ways to diagnose and treat the disease.
For patient referral or consultations, contact the Department of Urology at 412-692-4100.