When cancer infects the bladder, a buildup of old or damaged cells clumps together to form a tumor. In about 90 percent of bladder cancer cases, this occurs in the urothelium, or the inner lining of the bladder. These tumors can be benign, meaning they remain fairly harmless, or malignant, meaning they become cancerous, can spread and cause great risks to health. You may not experience any symptoms at first, but bladder cancer eventually leads to blood in the urine as well as painful and frequent urination. Over time, the tumors can break up and spread to other parts of the body.
Doctors aren’t exactly sure what causes bladder cancer, but things like smoking, exposure to toxic chemicals and a family history of bladder cancer can increase your risk. You also have a greater chance of developing bladder cancer if you have had it previously. Some people, however, exhibit none of these risk factors and still develop bladder cancer.
Treatment of Bladder Cancer
Though the incidence of bladder cancer is increasing, treatments are improving and survival rates are also increasing.
Treatment options for bladder cancer include surgery, biological therapy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The specific treatment a particular person may need will vary widely, based on criteria such as how far advanced the cancer is, the nature of the cancer and other factors. Surgery is often used to remove the tumor or tumors from the bladder, and the other forms of therapy help to kill off any remaining cancerous cells and prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
SOURCES: Urology Care Foundation; U.S. National Cancer Institute