Bladder Cancer is a common form of cancer prevalent in the United States. Studies suggest that approximately 70,000 people get affected from Bladder Cancer each year. Bladder cancer is diagnosed more in males than females, although anyone may get it. The risk of an individual developing bladder cancer is more after the age of 70.
Regarding functionality, bladder is a muscular organ which stores urine. In Bladder cancer, the cells on the inner lining of the bladder grow uncontrollably. These cells are called urothelial cells. This form of cancer is treatable if diagnosed early and there has been no metastasis.
The recurrence rate for Bladder Cancer however is higher than other forms of cancer. This is why individuals with Bladder Cancer need more diligent followups for years to prevent and treat and progression or recurrence of Bladder Cancer. Studies suggest that around 75% of Bladder Cancer patients are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease which makes the overall prognosis for this condition quite good.
How is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?
For diagnosing bladder cancer, depending on the symptoms described by the patient, the physician will order the following tests:
Cystoscopy: A cystoscopy is performed by inserting a small tube called cystoscope through the urethra. Through this instrument, the physician looks at the inner part of the bladder and urethra and look for any signs of a tumor.
Biopsy: If the result of the cystoscopy is positive and there is tumor identified then a biopsy of the tumor will be done to confirm, malignancy. This procedure can be both diagnostic and therapeutic.
Urine Cytology: This is a test in which urinalysis is done to check for any cancer cells.
Radiography: Imaging studies like a CT urogram or a retrograde pyelogram will show a clear image of the bladder and confirm the diagnosis of a Bladder Cancer if present.
CT Urogram: In a CT urogram, a contrast dye is injected into a vein normally of the hand which flows through the urinary system and into the bladder. Detailed images are taken of the flow of the contrast dye and the presence of any cancer is visualized.
Retrograde Pyelogram: Retrograde Pyelogram is an examination done of the upper urinary tract in which a catheter is inserted into the bladder through urethra and a contrast dye is injected. Images are taken of the flow of the dye to look for presence of any cancer cells.
If Bladder Cancer is diagnosed then it is imperative to determine the extent of the cancer to formulate a treatment plan. This is done with the help of a CT or MRI scan of the bladder. This will give a clear indication as to how far the cancer has spread.
The results of all the above tests are now used to determine the staging of the cancer. The stage of bladder cancer ranges from I to V where I is the starting phase of the cancer and V is an advanced stage cancer. The staging of Bladder Cancer is done depending on the results found on studies mentioned above.
A low grade bladder tumor is more closer in appearance and is well differentiated. These tumors grow slowly and the chances of them metastasizing is quite low.
A High Grade Bladder Tumor on the other hand will be more abnormal looking and will be poorly differentiated. These tumors are extremely aggressive and spread rapidly to other parts of the body.