There has been a steady increase in bladder cancer over the past few decades and it is currently the sixth most common form of cancer diagnosed in the United States. Treatment and survival rates have, thankfully, been increasing steadily as well. Due to its prevalence, however, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the most common signs and symptoms as well as to understand what types of treatment options are available.

What are the most common symptoms of bladder cancer?

Blood in the urine, also known as hematuria, is the most obvious and frequent symptom of bladder cancer. It is normally painless but is a red flag for cancer similar to blood in the stool or coughing up blood. Urinary tract infections and kidney stones can also present with hematuria so it is important to always see your doctor when you present with this common symptom. In order to diagnose bladder cancer you must undergo a diagnostic investigation that includes radiological imaging of the kidneys, ureter, and bladder as well as a urinalysis. The most important test to be completed, however, is the cystoscopy which allows your doctor a direct view inside the bladder.

What are the treatment options for bladder cancer?

Treatment for bladder cancer begins with a transurethral resection of the bladder (TURBT) after a patient has been found to have abnormal growth on the urothelium or lamina propria when examined with a cystoscope. This allows a pathologist to assess the tumor’s grade and stage which is vital information to determine further treatment.

After the TURBT, intravesical chemotherapy or intravesical immunotherapy is often used to prevent tumor recurrences. Intravesical simply means “within the bladder” and the therapeutic agents (which include thiotepa, doxorubicin, mitomycin C, and bacillus Calmette-Guerin or BCG) are put directly into the bladder through a catheter.

Once the tumors have been removed it is important to have periodic cystoscopies in order to detect any possible tumor recurrences. For the first one to two years this is done on a quarterly basis which can then be reduced to twice a year or even once a year barring any recurrences.

Bladder cancer is a common type of cancer in the United States and it’s important to know the signs and symptoms. It is also very important to discuss any concerns you might have with your doctor, especially if you notice any common symptoms.