Although it’s not as well-known as breast, lung or colon cancer, bladder cancer is among the top 10 most common types of cancer in the U.S. More than 70,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year. Knowing the symptoms and early detection are vital to surviving this disease.
Dr. Youssef Tanagho, a urologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, specializes in diagnosing and treating bladder cancer. He was the first doctor in East San Diego County to use blue light cystoscopy, a new advanced technology that significantly improves the ability to detect tumors within the bladder.
Below, Dr. Tanagho provides insight on bladder cancer.
What is bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer occurs when cells within the bladder start to grow out of control. This most often develops within the cells that make up the lining of the bladder, which comes in direct contact with urine. If the cancer grows into the deeper muscle layers of the bladder, it becomes harder to treat.
Who is most at risk for bladder cancer?
If you smoke cigarettes, quit. It’s the most important risk factor, with half of all patients diagnosed with bladder cancer reporting a history of smoking. Family history is also an important risk factor, so if you have relatives who have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, then you should consult your doctor.
Certain occupations can also place you at higher risk. Workers exposed to chemicals derived from compounds called arylamines — found in processing paint, dye, metal and petroleum products — have been shown to be at greater risk for bladder cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Be aware of changes to your body and talk to your doctor about anything that appears abnormal.
The most common symptoms of bladder cancer include:
- Blood in urine (called hematuria)
- Pain or irritation when urinating
- Having to urinate often
- Back pain
- Pelvic pain
How do you test for bladder cancer?
A cystoscopy is the best method for evaluating the bladder and the urethra. A long, thin camera called a cystoscope is inserted through the urethra. At Sharp Grossmont, urologists now have access to an advanced blue light cystoscope that enables them to detect more tumors as they look through the device. If an abnormality is found, the doctor can take a small tissue sample for further examination. In addition, a sample of urine from the bladder is sent for analysis of the cells to determine if any are cancerous.
How is bladder cancer treated?
The most common treatment is to remove the tumor in an outpatient procedure known as a transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT). Local immunotherapy and chemotherapy via direct bladder installation also have a role to play in the management of bladder cancer. For more advanced cases, complete bladder removal and reconstruction and chemotherapy may be necessary.
The Cancer Centers of Sharp offer a complete range of care for bladder cancer, from diagnosis to treatment and recovery.