Bladder Cancer | Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center | Loyola Medicine

Bladder Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

A major sign and symptom of bladder cancer is painful urination, often accompanied by frequent urination and lower back pain.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Blood in the urine, causing the urine to appear red or brown in color
  • Blood cells found in urine when the urine is examined under a microscope (in less apparent cases of blood in the urine)
  • Pelvic pain
  • A painful urge to urinate

Overview and Facts about Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is one of the most common urology/oncology conditions. It is characterized by uncontrollable growth of cancer cells in the bladder. Bladder cancer that starts in the lining of the bladder, called transitional cell carcinoma, is the most common. Part of the urinary tract, the bladder is a hollow organ that receives and stores urine drained from the kidneys. Bladder cancer can thus grow to or within other areas of the urinary tract. Bladder cancer affects both women and men, but the condition is more common in men.

Causes and Risk Factors of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer occurs when the bladder cells undergo genetic changes, or mutations, that cause the cells to grow abnormally and/or uncontrollably. Individuals with a personal or family history of bladder cancer are also more at risk for developing the disease than those without such history.

Known risk factors for bladder cancer include:

  • Caucasian ethnicity or descent
  • Gender, as men have a higher risk of bladder cancer than women
  • Older age (50 years and over)
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use/abuse
  • Overexposure to harmful chemicals and/or radiation
  • Prior exposure to the anti-cancer drug cyclophosphamide
  • Prolonged bladder irritation and/or inflammation (e.g. frequent or repeated bladder infections)
  • Parasitic infections in the bladder
  • Prolonged use of urinary catheters

Tests and Diagnosis of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is often diagnosed during the early stages of the disease, and many tests can identify signs of bladder cancer. For example, a laboratory test called a urinalysis is performed to determine whether blood and other cancer-related molecules are present in the urine. Hematuria tests, which identify blood in the urine, are used to diagnose bladder cancer. Cystoscopy and urine cytology tests are also performed to identify the presence of bladder cancer cells in individuals with a previous diagnosis of bladder cancer.

Treatment and Care for Bladder Cancer

Because diagnosis of bladder cancer often occurs in its early stages, treatment is often successful and recovery likely. Treatment frequently involves one or a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. Surgery is performed to remove cancer cells from the bladder, while chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy are used to kill bladder cancer cells.

Bladder cancer is preventable in some cases through lifestyle choices that include consuming large amounts of fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, avoiding exposure to toxic chemicals and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.