WHAT IS BLADDER CANCER?
Bladder cancer is cancer that starts in the lining of the bladder. The bladder is part of the urinary system, which filters waste products out of your blood and makes urine.
Who is affected?
Over 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year and the 7th most common cancer in the UK, the 4th most common cancer in men1.
It is more common in older adults, with most new cases diagnosed in people aged 60 and above. Tobacco smoke is a common cause and it’s estimated that more than 1 in 3 cases of bladder cancer are caused by smoking.
Bladder cancer is also more common in men than in women, possibly because in the past, men were more likely to smoke and work in the manufacturing industry.
Types of bladder cancer
Once diagnosed, bladder cancer can be classified by how far it has spread.
If the cancerous cells are contained inside the lining of the bladder, doctors describe it as non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. This is the most common type of bladder cancer. Most people don’t die as a result of this type of bladder cancer.
When the cancerous cells spread beyond the lining, into the surrounding bladder muscle, it’s referred to as muscle-invasive bladder cancer. This is less common, but has a higher chance of spreading to other parts of the body.
If bladder cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it’s known as advanced or metastatic bladder cancer.
Treating bladder cancer
In cases of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC), it’s usually possible to remove the cancerous cells while leaving the rest of the bladder intact.
This is done using a surgical technique called transurethral resection of a bladder tumour (TURBT). This is followed by a dose of chemotherapy medication directly into the bladder, to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
In cases with a higher risk of recurrence, medicine known as Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) may be injected into the bladder to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
Treatment for high-risk NMIBC, or muscle invasive bladder cancer (MIBC) may involve surgically removing the bladder in an operation known as a cystectomy.
Most patients will have a choice of either surgery or a course of radiotherapy.
When the bladder is removed, another method of collecting urine is needed. Possible options include making an opening in the abdomen so urine can be passed into an external bag, or constructing a new bladder out of a section of bowel. This will be done at the same time as a cystectomy.
After treatment for all types of bladder cancer, the patient will have regular follow-up tests to check for signs of recurrence.
Information sourced from NHS England – Bladder Cancer