Bladder Cancer (cont.)

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How is bladder cancer staging determined?

Bladder cancer is staged using the tumor node metastases (TNM) system developed by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) in 1997.

The tumor or the T stage is accorded by a pathological examination of the tumor specimen removed surgically. This refers to the depth of penetration of the tumor from the innermost lining to the deeper layers of the bladder. The T stages are as follows:

  • Tx - Primary tumor cannot be evaluated
  • T0 - No primary tumor
  • Ta - Noninvasive papillary carcinoma (tumor limited to the innermost lining or the epithelium)
  • Tis - Carcinoma in situ (flat tumor)
  • T1 - Tumor invades connective tissue under the epithelium (surface layer)
  • T2 - Tumor invades muscle of the bladder
    • T2a - Superficial muscle affected (inner half)
    • T2b - Deep muscle affected (outer half)
  • T3 - Tumor invades perivesical (around the bladder) fatty tissue
    • T3a - microscopically (visible only on examination under the microscope)
    • T3b - macroscopically (for example, visible tumor mass on the outer bladder tissue)
  • T4 - Tumor invades any of the following: prostate, uterus, vagina, pelvic wall, or abdominal wall

The node or the N stage is determined by the presence and extent of involvement of the lymph nodes in the pelvic region of the body near the urinary bladder. The N stages are as follows:

  • Nx - Regional lymph nodes cannot be evaluated
  • N0 - No regional lymph node metastasis
  • N1 - Metastasis in a single lymph node < 2 cm in size
  • N2 - Metastasis in a single lymph node > 2 cm, but < 5 cm in size, or multiple lymph nodes < 5 cm in size
  • N3 - Metastasis in a lymph node > 5 cm in size

The metastases or the M stage signifies the presence or absence of the spread of bladder cancer to other organs of the body.

  • Mx - Distant metastasis cannot be evaluated
  • M0 - No distant metastasis
  • M1 - Distant metastasis

The proper staging of bladder cancer is an essential step which has significant bearings on the management of this condition. The implications of bladder stage are...

  • It helps select proper treatment for the patient. Superficial disease (Ta/T1/Tis) can generally be managed with less aggressive treatment as compared to invasive disease (T2/T3/T4).
  • Invasive tumors have a higher likelihood of spread to lymph nodes and distant organs as compared to superficial tumors.
  • The chances of cure and long-term survival progressively decrease as the bladder cancer stage increases.
  • Staging allows proper classification of patients into groups for research studies and study of newer treatments.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/26/2013

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