The urinary bladder is a muscular sac located in the pelvis, just above and behind the pubic bone. Urine, which is made in the kidneys, travels down two tubes to the bladder and exits into the urethra which carries it out of the body. Bladder cancer is a malignant tumor growth within the bladder.
Tumors may be classified based on their growth patterns as either papillary tumors (wart-like lesion attached to a stalk) or non-papillary tumors (solid lesions with a broad base). Non-papillary tumors are less common (10%) but tend to be more invasive.
Bladder cancer rarely occurs in people younger than 40 and rates are higher among those who live in the northern half of the United States.
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The exact cause of bladder cancer is uncertain. Several factors can contribute to the development of bladder cancer, however, including cigarette smoking (the most common factor), industrial exposure to known carcinogens, exposure to radiation and more.
Women who received radiation therapy to treat cervical cancer have a fourfold increased risk, and those who took the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) may be at nine times greater risk.
Bladder cancer can exist without any of the symptoms listed below, although it is more common to experience one or more of them. The presence of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate cancer.
A urologist performs a detailed patient history and physical exam, including the rectum and the pelvis. Other tests include:
The choice of treatment for bladder cancer is based on the grade and stage of the tumor, severity of symptoms, likelihood of recurrence and the presence of other medical conditions. Unlike other cancers, bladder tumors have an unusual propensity to recur.
Depending on the stage, treatment may include: