March 01, 2013

Bladder cancer

Spot it early, follow it closely

Bladder cancer

In 2013, it's expected about 73,000 Americans will be diagnosed with new cases of bladder cancer.

Although bladder cancer can occur at any age, it typically affects older adults. The most significant increase in bladder cancer occurrence is seen in men and women older than 70. Among men, bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer. It's eighth on the list of most common cancers in women.

The good news is most bladder cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is highly treatable.

However, even early-stage bladder cancer is likely to recur, so vigilant follow-up exams are typically continued for years to come.

Inner lining changes

The bladder is a hollow, muscular organ that stores urine until it's passed out of the body through a narrow tube called the urethra. The wall of the bladder consists of multiple tissue layers. The innermost lining is made up of transitional cells, which stretch as your bladder fills with urine and then shrink when you empty your bladder. Most bladder cancers get their start in these transitional cells.

Bladder cancer is assigned a stage based on how far the cancer has grown into bladder tissue or if the cancer has moved beyond the bladder. In general terms, bladder cancer may be:

  • Nonmuscle invasive — This earliest form of bladder cancer involves only the superficial surface layer of the bladder. About 70 percent of diagnosed bladder tumors are confined to the bladder's surface and don't...