Bladder Cancer

What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer is a cancer that starts in the cells that line your bladder.

What increases my risk for bladder cancer?

  • Cigarettes

  • Exposure to certain chemicals found in paint, dyes, rubber, plastic, metal, and automobile exhaust

  • Cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapy medicine

  • A family member has bladder cancer

  • Chronic bladder irritation or inflammation from indwelling urinary catheters or frequent urinary tract infections

What are the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer?

  • Blood in your urine

  • A need to urinate suddenly

  • Painful urination

  • Urinating more often than usual

  • Unexplained weight loss

How is bladder cancer diagnosed?

You may need more than one of the following tests:

  • Urine sample: A sample of your urine is collected to check for blood, an infection, or abnormal cells.

  • Cystoscopy: This procedure uses a thin, lighted tube inserted through your urethra (where urine passes out of your body). Your caregiver will look inside the bladder and remove tissue samples or small tumors.

  • Intravenous pyelogram: This is an x-ray of the kidneys, bladder, and ureters (tubes that carry urine). Dye is used to make these organs show up better in pictures. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your abdomen and pelvis. The pictures may show the size and where the cancer is located. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your abdomen and pelvis. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is bladder cancer treated?

Bladder cancer is treated differently if it has spread to other parts of your body. You may need any of the following treatments:

  • Transurethral resection: This is also called a TUR. An instrument called a cystoscope is inserted through the urethra. The tumor is then burned off by electrical current or by laser.

  • Surgery: You may need to have your bladder removed. Caregivers will then need to make an opening to the outside of your body for urine to pass through. Surrounding organs and lymph nodes may also be removed.

  • Immunotherapy: This is medicine given directly into the bladder to help your immune system fight the cancer.

  • Chemotherapy: These medicines kill cancer cells.

  • Radiation therapy: This uses high-energy beams of x-rays to kill cancer cells.

What are the risks of bladder cancer?

Surgery may cause you to bleed more than expected, or get an infection. Even with treatment, bladder cancer may return or spread. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

How can I prevent bladder cancer?

  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking increases your risk of bladder cancer. Ask for more information if you need help quitting.

  • Follow chemical safety guidelines: If you work with chemicals, follow safety guidelines. This can help decrease your exposure.

  • Eat healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

  • Drink liquids as directed: Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You vomit and cannot keep any liquids or food down.

  • Your pain gets worse or does not go away after you take pain medicine.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are unable to urinate, or you have pain in your lower abdomen.

  • You have blood in your urine.

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You have trouble breathing.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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