Bladder Cancer (cont.)

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What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer is an uncontrolled abnormal growth and multiplication of cells in the urinary bladder which have broken free from the normal control mechanisms of the body. Bladder cancer (like cancers of other organs) has the ability to spread (metastasize) to other body parts including the lungs, bones, and liver.

Bladder cancer invariably starts from the innermost layer of the bladder (for example, the mucosa) and may invade into the deeper layers as it grows. Alternately, it may remain confined to the mucosa for a prolonged period of time. Visually, it may appear in various forms. Most common is a shrub-like appearance (papillary) but it may also appear as a nodule, an irregular solid growth or a flat, barely perceptible thickening of the inner bladder wall (details in subsequent sections).

What is the burden of bladder cancer in the U.S.?

Bladder cancer has the dubious distinction of inclusion on the top 10 list of cancers with an estimated 72,570 new cases occurring in 2010 within the U.S. Bladder cancer is three to four times more likely to be diagnosed in men than in women and two times higher in white men than in African-American men. Bladder cancer killed an estimated 15,210 people in 2013.

What are the types of bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer is classified on the basis of the appearance of its cells under the microscope (histological type). The type of bladder cancer has implications in selecting the appropriate treatment for the disease. For example, certain types may not respond to radiation and chemotherapy as well as others. The extent of surgery required for maximizing the chances of cure may also be impacted by the histological type of the cancer.

The more common types of bladder cancer and their relative incidence are given below:

  • Urothelial carcinoma (previously known as "transitional cell carcinoma") is the most common type and comprises 90% to 95% of all bladder cancers. It is strongly associated with cigarette smoking.
  • Adenocarcinoma of the bladder comprises about 2% of all bladder cancers and is associated with prolonged inflammation and irritation.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma comprises 1% to 2% of bladder cancers and is also associated with prolonged infection, inflammation, and irritation such as that associated with longstanding stones in the bladder. In certain parts of the Middle East and Africa (for example, Egypt), this is the predominant form of bladder cancer and is associated with chronic infection caused by Schistosoma worm (a blood fluke, that causes Schistosomiasis, also termed bilharzia or snail fever).
  • Other rare forms of bladder cancer include small cell cancer, pheochromocytoma, and sarcoma.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/26/2013

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