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Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer starts in cells, called transitional cells, which line the bladder. The tumors are classified based on the way they grow:

  • Papillary tumors have a wart-like appearance and are attached to a stalk.
  • Nonpapillary (sessile) tumors are much less common and more invasive.

What are the Causes of Bladder Cancer?

Although the exact cause of bladder cancer is uncertain, certain things put you at higher risk:

  • Cigarette Smoke
  • Contact with cancer-causing chemicals, or carcinogens, in the workplace. People who work with dye, rubber, aluminum, leather and pesticides are at highest risk.
  • The chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
  • Radiation therapy to treat cervical cancer
  • A long-term bladder infection or irritation may lead to a certain type of bladder cancer.

How is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?

Physicians may use the following tests to confirm a diagnosis of bladder cancer:

  • Complete medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Cystoscopy
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI
  • PET scan

Your physician may also order blood tests to help determine the diagnosis, including a complete blood count (CBC), liver function and tumor markers.

Bladder Cancer Treatment By Stage

Bladder cancer treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, the severity of your symptoms and your overall health.

Stages 0 and I: bladder surgery to remove the tumor and chemotherapy of immunotherapy directly into the bladder.

Stages II and III: radical cystectomy (removal of the bladder); surgery to remove only a part of the bladder, followed by radiation and chemotherapy; chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before surgery; or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation in patients who choose not to have bladder surgery or who are not candidates for surgery.

Stage IV: in most patients, the malignancy has progressed too far for a cure. Chemotherapy may be considered for some patients.

Immunotherapy for Bladder Cancer

In immunotherapy, a medication is used to trigger your immune system to attack and kill the cancer cells.

Immunotherapy for bladder cancer is usually performed using the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine delivered through a Foley catheter directly into the bladder. If BCG is not effective, patients may receive interferon, a protein made and released by host cells in response to the presence of viruses, bacteria or tumor cells.

Clinical Trials and Research

Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center offers access to innovative cancer treatments and technologies. Patients who qualify also have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of treatments that would not otherwise be available to them.