New Brunswick, N.J., May 3, 2021 – The bladder, a part of the urinary system, is a hollow organ in the pelvis with the primary function of storing and then eliminating urine that drains into it from the kidney. Cancer of the bladder develops when abnormal cells in the bladder start to grow out of control. The American Cancer Society estimates about 83,730 new cases of bladder cancer in the United States in 2021. Both men and women should have an understanding of bladder cancer to be aware of a possible problem and stay proactive in reducing the risk of developing the disease.
What causes bladder cancer?
Researchers are working to better understand the causes of bladder cancer, but we know that several factors may increase the risk of developing the disease. Smoking is by far the biggest risk factor for developing bladder cancer. People who smoke cigarettes are up to four times more likely than nonsmokers to develop the disease. Additionally, certain chemical exposures have been linked with bladder cancer including those used in textile, dye, rubber, leather, paint, or printing industries. Other risk factors include a history of chronic inflammation from recurring bladder infections and being older in age.
What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?
In most cases, the first sign of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Other symptoms include pain or burning sensation during urination, frequent urination, feeling the need to urinate many times throughout the night, feeling the need to urinate, but not being able to pass urine and lower back pain on one side of the body. It is important to talk to a medical professional if you are concerned about any of these symptoms or changes in urination you experience.
What are the latest treatment options for bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer treatment depends on the type of bladder cancer and the stage of disease. The majority of bladder cancers are urothelial carcinoma, which is a cancer that forms in the cells lining the bladder. For superficial bladder cancer that has not invaded the deeper muscle layers, treatment starts with scraping the tumor from the bladder wall. Tumors with high risk of progression are then treated with medicine that is instilled in the bladder, typically an immune-based medicine called bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) or chemotherapy put directly into the bladder.
For bladder cancer that invades into the muscle, treatment includes a combination of chemotherapy and then surgery to remove the bladder or radiation therapy. Modern surgical techniques include reconstruction of a new bladder using the intestine. Recently, immunotherapy has been approved for the management of both nonmuscle-invasive and advanced bladder cancer. Immunotherapy helps the body’s own immune system detect and kill cancer cells. Ongoing clinical trials are investigating newer immunotherapies and combinations with chemotherapy or other targeted therapies. These new treatments may improve survival from bladder cancer and reduce side effects.
Why is it important to receive care for bladder cancer in a comprehensive program such as that at Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health?
While bladder cancer can be serious, there are many options to treat the disease and maintain a good quality of life. Our team has the expertise and collaborative spirit to provide the best tailored care for each individual patient. Our multidisciplinary team of experts are engaged in clinical trials, including national and international collaborations, to provide our patients the most cutting edge care.
For more information about the Urologic Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute, visit: https://cinj.org/patient-care/urologic-oncology-program
Saum Ghodoussipour, MD, is a urologic oncologist and director of the Bladder and Urothelial Cancer Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute and assistant professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
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