Bladder Cancer Symptoms and Treatment

What Is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer develops when cells change (mutate) and begin growing uncontrollably. In time, they form a tumor.

The federal Centers for Disease Control’s records from 2016, the most recent year available, show that bladder cancer ranks sixth in the number of new cancer cases diagnosed among men and women in Rhode Island.

There are several kinds of bladder cancer.

Transitional Cell (Urothelial) Carcinoma

Transitional cell carcinoma begins in the cells lining the inside of the bladder. These cells line the other parts of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters, and urethra, as well as other organs. Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common kind of bladder cancer, occurring in about 95 percent of cases.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is cancer that begins in squamous cells—thin, flat cells found in the tissue that resembles the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Roughly one to two percent of bladder cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.

Adenocarcinoma

Adenocarcinoma is cancer that begins in the cells of glandular structures lining certain organs in the body. Adenocarcinomas account for only about one percent of bladder cancers.

Cancer that is limited to the lining of the bladder is called superficial bladder cancer. Cancer that has spread to the muscle wall of the bladder or to nearby organs and lymph nodes is called invasive bladder cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer signs and symptoms include:

  • Blood in the urine (also called hematuria)
  • Pain during urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Lower back pain

Blood in your urine can also be a sign of kidney cancer; inflammation of the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra) or the prostate gland; or polycystic kidney disease.

Treatment for Bladder Cancer

There are four types of standard treatment for patients who have bladder cancer, depending on its stage of development. 

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy

Surgical services are offered at the Minimally Invasive Urology Institute (MIUI) at The Miriam Hospital.

The Miriam Hospital is one of only three hospitals in New England to offer blue-light cystoscopy, a minimally invasive, leading-edge technology used to diagnose and treat bladder cancer.

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

Smoking is the most important risk factor for bladder cancer. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, other potential causes of bladder cancer include:
  • Having a family history of bladder cancer or having certain genetic changes that are linked to bladder cancer
  • Being exposed to paints, dyes, metals, or petroleum products in the workplace
  • Drinking water that has high levels of arsenic or that has been treated with chlorine
  • Having a history of bladder infections
  • Using urinary catheters for a long time

Meet the genitourinary team »