The bladder is a balloon-like organ in the pelvis that collects urine made by the kidneys before it is emptied from the body. Different forms of bladder cancer can occur along the inside surface of the bladder that may be superficial or that may become invasive and grow deeper into the bladder muscle or even spread outside the bladder. The American Cancer Society predicts that more than 60,000 Americans will be diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2009, and more than 13,000 individuals will die of the disease. Bladder cancer is nearly three times more common in men than in women, and twice as common in Caucasians as in African Americans.
The most common symptom of the disease is blood in the urine. While this is usually painless, it is not always visible to the naked eye. Often, the diagnosis of bladder cancer is delayed because bleeding is intermittent or is microscopic. Other symptoms include an increased frequency of urination, an increased urgency to urinate, and painful urination. If you have one or more of these symptoms, it does not mean that you have bladder cancer, but it is important that you seek medical attention.
Treatment options depend on the type of bladder cancer as well as its aggressiveness. With the large number of patients that come to Vanderbilt for bladder cancer treatment, all appropriate forms of therapy are offered and are used quite often.
Like other malignancies, cigarette smoking is the most significant risk factor for bladder cancer. Smokers face twice the risk of the disease compared to nonsmokers. Smoking is estimated to be responsible for 47% of bladder cancer deaths among men and 37% among women. Research has shown that quitting smoking will reduce the likelihood of developing a recurrence of bladder cancer. Certain occupations have also been linked to an increased risk in bladder cancer. Individuals who work in the textile, dye, rubber, or leather industries are at higher risk of the disease because of their exposure to a certain class of organic chemicals called aromatic amines. However, patients without any risk factors and at any age may develop bladder cancer.