Bladder Cancer: Helping Chicagoans Fight to Win

What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer, the unchecked growth and division of cells in the bladder, is the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. Roughly 79,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, and it will cause more than 16,000 deaths. Many people are not aware of the potential growth and harm of bladder cancer, and as a result diagnosis is often delayed.

Who gets bladder cancer? What are the risk factors?

Several factors may increase a person’s risk of developing bladder cancer:

  • Being male. Bladder cancer is three times more common in men. But don’t be misled. While they’re less likely to have bladder cancer, women who do are more likely to have advanced tumors when diagnosed and to have a worse prognosis.
  • Smoking. The body excretes some of the chemicals in smoke into your urine. They may damage the bladder’s lining, which can increase risk of bladder cancer.
  • Age. Risk of developing bladder cancer increases as you get older. And while it can occur at any age, bladder cancer is rarely found in people under age 40.
  • Being Caucasian. Caucasians have an increased risk of bladder cancer compared to people of other races.
  • Chemical exposures. The kidneys filter harmful chemicals from the bloodstream, and the body removes them through the bladder. So your risk of bladder cancer may increase with exposure to arsenic and other chemicals, such as those used to make rubber, leather, textiles, dyes and paints.
  • Prior treatment for cancer. Certain anti-cancer compounds increase your risk of bladder cancer. Also, prior radiation treatment of the pelvic area elevates your risk.
  • Diabetes medications. Certain diabetes medications contain pioglitazone, and taking one for more than a year can increase risk of bladder cancer.
  • Chronic bladder inflammation. Chronic or repeated urinary infection or inflammation may increase risk for squamous cell bladder cancer.
  • Personal or family history of cancer. People who’ve had bladder cancer have increased risk for getting it again. Although it’s rare for bladder cancer to run in families, risk may be increased for people who have one or more immediate relatives who’ve had bladder cancer previously.

Can bladder cancer be detected early through screening?

The earlier bladder cancer is found, the better your odds of it being treated successfully. And the most common and effective test is urinalysis to check for blood in the urine. However, there is no recommended routine screening to look for bladder cancer in people without any symptoms. For people at average risk, no screening test has been shown to reduce risk of death due to bladder cancer. So early detection depends on recognizing the warning signs.

Be aware of bladder cancer’s symptoms.

The symptoms of bladder cancer are easily recognized. However, they are shared with other conditions, such as urinary tract infections. For this reason, along with a general lack of awareness of bladder cancer, it’s important to know what symptoms you should be watching out for and should bring to the attention of your doctor. These include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Back pain
  • pelvic pain
  • Leg swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Bone pain in pelvic or rectal/anal area

There are different types of bladder cancer.

Through microscopic cell analysis, science has classified five distinct types of bladder cancer:

  • Transitional cell carcinoma – Affecting 95% of people who have bladder cancer, this type occurs in the cells that line the inside of the bladder.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – This affects only about 1% to 2% of people with bladder cancer in the US. Occurs in squamous cells, whose presence is a response to infection and irritation.
  • Adenocarcinoma – This occurs in cells comprising the mucous-secreting glands of the bladder and accounts for only about 1% of bladder cancers.
  • Small cell carcinoma – Accounting for less than 1% of bladder cancers, this type occurs in nerve-like bladder cells.
  • Sarcoma – This very rare type of bladder cancer occurs in the bladder’s muscle cells.

What are the treatments for bladder cancer?

As with most cancers, modern medicine offers several different treatments for bladder cancer. Which is the best one for you or your loved one? That depends on multiple factors. So it’s important to discuss your options carefully with your cancer care team and carefully weigh the benefits against the potential side effects and risks. Here are the treatments for bladder cancer you may be discussing with your doctor, depending on the disease’s stage and other factors:

  • Transurethral resection – Minimally invasive surgical removal of early stage or non-muscle-invasive cancers. Usually the first treatment, and can be used to confirm presence of cancer and whether it has invaded the bladder wall’s muscle layer.
  • Cystectomy – Surgical removal of the entire bladder (radical cystectomy) or just part of it (partial cystectomy).
  • Intravesical therapy – Delivery of medicine directly into the bladder, affecting bladder cells without affecting other parts of the body. Used after resection for cancers that have not thoroughly invaded the bladder wall.
  • Chemotherapy – The use of medicines (chemical therapy) to treat bladder cancer. Can be delivered directly into the bladder or delivered systemically through IV infusion.
  • Radiation therapy – Harming cancer cells with ionized radiation is used as a primary treatment in some cases, as support for other types of treatment and to help prevent or treat symptoms.
  • Immunotherapy – The enlisting of the body’s immune system to help fight cancer using medications.

In your fight against bladder cancer, put your trust in experts who care.

Alpha Med Physicians Group’s Tinley Park, Homewood, and Palos Height’s oncologists treat bladder cancer with experienced skill, the most advanced treatments and protocols, and a uniquely compassionate, individualized approach. We understand bladder cancer… and all that goes along with having and fighting the disease. We are caring, understanding people who are here to support you, help you and provide you the hope you need to win your fight.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment for bladder cancer treatment in Tinley Park, Homewood, Palos Heights and the greater Chicago area, call 708-342-1900. You can also request an appointment using the easy online form on this page.