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The bladder is a grapefruit-sized elastic organ that stores urine. Bladder cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the tissues of the bladder. Early detection is essential to diagnosing bladder cancer before it becomes invasive and spreads to nearby tissues & organs.
Bladder Cancer Care at UVM Medical Center
At UVM Medical Center, we take a collaborative approach to diagnose bladder cancer as early as possible. Primary care physicians, urologists, radiologist and pathologists work together to quickly test our patients. Early detection is essential.
The exact cause of this type of cancer isn’t always clear, but several factors can increase your risk of developing it including:
- Age - the risk increases as you age
- Race - caucasians (white)
- Gender - men develop bladder cancer more often than women
- Chemical exposure: arsenic and other chemicals used to make dyes, rubber, leather, textiles & paint
- Previous cancer treatments - pelvic radiation or the drug cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
- Taking any diabetes drugs including pioglitazone (Actos) for more than one year
- Repeated urinary infections or inflammations from long-term use of a urinary catheter or the parasitic infection known as schistosomiasis
- Personal or family history of bladder cancer
Bladder cancer may not be completely preventable; but there are steps you can take to lower your risk:
- Quit smoking
- Be careful if you work with chemicals
- Choose healthy foods and drinks
- Colorful fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants , which may help reduce cancer risk
- Drink plenty of water daily
Bladder Cancer Symptoms
Bladder cancer symptoms include:
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Back pain
- Pelvic pain
You know your body best. If you have any of the symptoms described above, see your doctor.
Bladder Cancer Diagnosis
During the diagnosis phase, we will figure out what type of bladder cancer you have. The type and severity of the disease will determine your treatment options.
- Superficial bladder cancer is when the disease is in its early stages, and the cure rate is usually high.
- Invasive bladder cancer is when the disease has invaded deep into the muscle and has spread to nearby tissue. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are required for this type of cancer.
The following procedures are used to diagnose bladder cancer:
- Cystoscopy - You receive a local anesthetic. Then we insert a thin tube through your urethra, allowing us to see the inside of your urethra and bladder. Narrow band cystoscopy, a more advanced technology, helps us detect tumors on the bladder.
- Biopsy - During a cystoscopy, we may collect a cell sample (biopsy). Our expert pathologists, who specialize in bladder cancer, analyze it for signs of cancer.
- Urine cytology - You provide a urine sample, which we analyze under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
- Imaging tests - These tests allow your doctor to see your urinary tract in detail.
Intravenous pyelogram - A type of X-ray imaging test that uses dye to highlight your kidneys, urethra and bladder. The dye helps us see abnormalities more clearly.
Computerized tomography (CT) scan - A type of X-ray test that examines your urinary tract and the surrounding tissues.
Bladder Cancer Treatments
Bladder cancer treatment options depend on the stage the cancer is in (Stage 0 to Stage 4). There are four standard treatment options for bladder cancer:
Several treatments may be used in combination to increase the chances of a cure. Surgery is the primary treatment for bladder cancer. It is used in over 90% of bladder cancer cases (either alone or in combination with another therapy). When cancer has spread to the wall of the bladder, a cystectomy is the preferred treatment choice. Please continue reading for more information on cystectomies.
Bladder Cancer Surgery: Cystectomy
A cystectomy is the removal of all or part of the bladder. In some cases, the nearby lymph nodes and organs will be removed if the cancer cells have spread to them. If the bladder is removed, the surgeon creates a new way or path for urine to be stored and to leave the body.
If your doctor recommends a cystectomy, you may be a candidate for a da Vinci robotic surgery. This type of surgery is minimally invasive and offers added precision and skill, which can lead to better clinical outcomes. It uses advanced technology that provides several benefits compared to other treatment methods, including:
- Shorter hospital stay
- Shorter recovery time
- Significantly less pain
- Less scarring
- Less blood loss
- Fewer blood transfusions
- Less risk of infection
- Better clinical outcomes, in many cases
As with any surgery, these benefits cannot be guaranteed, as surgery is unique to each patient and specific condition. The da Vinci Surgical System is considered safe and effective, but it may not be appropriate for everyone. Always ask your doctor about all treatment options, as well as the benefits and risks.
If you are a cystectomy candidate, talk to one of The UVM Medical Center's urologists who perform robotic bladder cancer surgery.