THERAPY FOR BLADDER CANCER
Understanding Your Treatment Options
The bladder is in the pelvis. It collects and
stores urine and has a muscular wall that allows it to contract and expand.
- About 90 percent of bladder cancers are transitional cell carcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma
and small cell carcinoma account for the rest.
- Cancer that is only in the bladder lining is called superficial (or
non-invasive) bladder cancer. More than 75 percent of bladder cancer is
diagnosed as superficial disease and has an excellent survival rate.
- Invasive bladder cancer penetrates the layers of the
bladder and is more likely to spread to other parts of the
Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer is
most often found in older white men, but it can be diagnosed in anyone at
any age. Other risk factors include:
- Smoking tobacco products.
- Working in jobs where there is possible chemical exposure. For
example, dye workers, textile workers, tire and
rubber workers, painters, truck drivers, chemical workers,
petroleum workers, hairdressers and aluminum workers.
- Chronic bladder inflammation, such as urinary infections, bladder
stones and kidney stones.
- Drinking water with high levels of arsenic.
Facts about Bladder Cancer
- The American Cancer Society estimates that more than
63,000 new cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in
the United States this year. Seventy-five percent of these will be in men.
- In the United States, bladder cancer is the fourth most
common cancer in men and eighth most common in women.
- The five-year survival rate for all types of bladder cancer
is 82 percent. If the cancer is confined to the bladder
(non-invasive), the survival rate is 94 percent.
Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
- Blood in urine.
- Painful urination.
- Frequent urination.
- Feeling the need to urinate without being able to.
- Lower back pain.
These symptoms may not be a sign of cancer, but itís important to have
them checked by a doctor.
Diagnosing Bladder Cancer
If you are
experiencing signs or symptoms of bladder cancer, your doctor will first
examine you and then conduct one or more of the following tests:
- Urinalysis checks the urine for bacteria, blood, protein,
sugar and other substances.
- Your doctor may also examine your urine under a microscope to look for
a cancerous cells. This is called a urine cytology.
- An intravenous pyelogram (IVP) is a test in which a "contrast
solution" is put into a vein. X-rays are then taken to see your kidneys,
bladder and ureters (the thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to
- A CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis uses X-rays and a
computer to get detailed images of the kidneys, bladder
- During a cystoscopy, a thin, telescope-like instrument
with a light is inserted gently into the urethra (the tube
that carries urine to the outside) and passed into the
bladder to examine its lining. The cystoscope also lets
your doctor remove a tissue sample to examine it for
If you are diagnosed with cancer, your doctor may order
more tests to see if cancer cells have spread from the bladder to other
parts of the body.
Treatment options are based on the type of
cancer, your age and overall health. Bladder cancer, if caught early, can
often be cured. The main treatments include:
- Surgery by a surgical oncologist or urologist to remove the cancer or
possibly part or all of the bladder.
- Radiation therapy where radiation oncologists use high energy X-rays
to destroy the tumor.
- Chemotherapy where a medical oncologist uses
drugs to eliminate the cancer. In some instances, drugs
may be put directly into the bladder.
- Biologic therapy (also called immunotherapy) is when
doctors stimulate your immune system to more effectively fight the cancer.
Surgery is often the primary treatment for bladder cancer.
To help patients preserve their bladder, doctors in some
cases are able to surgically remove part of the bladder and
follow up with radiation and chemotherapy. Early results
show these treatments to be as effective as complete
removal of the bladder and it allows many patients to preserve normal
Radiation Therapy Options for Bladder Cancer
Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, is the careful use of
radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer.
- Radiation therapy works within cancer cells by damaging their ability
to multiply. When these cells die, the body naturally eliminates them.
- Healthy cells are also affected by radiation, but they are
able to repair themselves in a way cancer cells cannot.
External beam radiation therapy is the main type of radiation used to
treat bladder cancer, often in combination with chemotherapy. Internal
radiation therapy, or brachytherapy, is also sometimes used.
External beam radiation therapy involves a
series of daily outpatient treatments to accurately deliver radiation to the
bladder. These treatments take less than half an hour each, five days a
week, for five to seven weeks.
- 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy
(3D-CRT) combines multiple radiation treatment fields
to deliver precise doses of radiation to the cancer.
This technique helps keep radiation away from nearby
Patients experience few side effects from radiation
therapy and may be able to continue normal routines. Side effects are
temporary and usually limited to the area that received radiation.
- Possible problems include skin irritation, nausea, bladder irritation
with increased frequency of urination,
abdominal cramping, rectal pressure, diarrhea and fatigue.
- Some patients may also suffer from sexual problems,
such as vaginal dryness or difficulty achieving an
These side effects may go away over time, but talk to your
doctor about any discomfort you feel. He or she may be
able to provide drugs and other treatments to help.
Web Sites on Bladder Cancer ::
American Cancer Society
Bladder Cancer Web CafĀE/strong>
About Clinical Trials
The radiation oncology team is constantly
exploring new ways to treat people with brain tumors through studies called clinical
trials. Today's standard radiation therapy treatments are a result of clinical
trials completed many years ago. For more information, please contact the following
National Cancer Institute
Radiation Therapy Answers
Radiation Therapy Oncology Group
the Radiation Oncology Team
Radiation oncologists are the doctors
who oversee the care of each patient undergoing radiation treatment. Other members
of the radiation oncology team include radiation therapists, radiation oncology
nurses, medical physicists, dosimetrists, social workers and nutritionists. To
locate a radiation oncologist in your area, visit
The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology
is the largest radiation oncology society in the world. The Society's mission
is to advance the practice of radiation oncology by promoting excellence in patient
care, promoting research and disseminating research results.
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