Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and eighth most common cancer in women. A leading cause of bladder cancer is cigarette smoking, but it is not the only cause. Exposure to industrial agents is also thought to be related to the development of bladder cancer. Many patients who develop bladder cancer have no identifiable risk factors.
As with all cancers, early diagnosis is important. Bladder cancer often produces the same symptoms as a urinary tract infection, like painful urination and difficulty initiating the urinary stream. Blood in the urine is common and is a symptom that should not be ignored. Persistent bladder symptoms should be discussed with your doctor. The diagnosis of bladder cancer is usually made by a bladder surgeon (urologist).
Using a small, flexible, fiber-optic endoscope (in a procedure called a cystoscopy), doctors at St. Peter's can quickly and accurately diagnose the cause of these symptoms. If the bladder cancer is superficial, endoscopic surgeries can remove the tumor in a minimally invasive manner, which is frequently followed by treatment of chemotherapy inside the bladder (intravesical chemotherapy).
In more advanced stages, a multidisciplinary team will discuss the available treatment options. This may include bladder removal (total or partial cystectomy), new bladder construction, or a chemotherapy/radiation protocol. With advanced surgical procedures, an artificial bladder may be created, which does not require an osotomy. When a patient cannot undergo surgery because of co-existing medical problems, radiation therapy is often used. Deciding on the best treatment for advanced bladder cancer requires careful assessment of the overall patient's health and personal preferences.
Support for Bladder Patient and Family
The diagnosis of cancer is challenging for patients. Faced with an array of decisions to make, and uncertainties about future outcomes, support groups can be an invaluable resource to assist patients and their families. Capital Region Urology in conjunction with St. Peter's Health Care Services, and BCAN (Bladder Cancer Awareness Network) sponsor support groups and educational programs for patients with bladder cancer. Networking with other patients sharing similar experiences has been found to enhance the emotional well being of cancer patients. For more information regarding Upstate New York Bladder Cancer Education and Awareness Support Group, please contact Linda Abriel at 518-438-1019 ext. 256.