Carolinas HealthCare System

Bladder Cancer

The bladder is a hollow pelvic organ with flexible, muscular walls that stores urine. The wall of the bladder has several layers. A layer of urothelial cells lines the inside of the kidney, ureter, bladder and urethra. Beneath this layer, called the urothelium, there is a thin zone of connective tissue called the lamina propria. The next deeper layer is a wider zone of muscle tissue called the muscularis propria. After this muscle, another zone of fatty connective tissue separates the bladder from other nearby organs. It is important to understand these layers because as the cancer penetrates through them, it becomes harder to treat.

 Bladder Cancer Staging Diagram

 Bladder Cancer Staging Diagram

The four main types of cancers that affect the bladder are:

  • urothelial carcinoma or transitional cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • adenocarcinoma
  • small cell

These same types of cancer can also grow in the lining of the kidney, ureters and urethra. In fact, patients with bladder cancer sometimes have a similar type of cancer in these areas. A complete evaluation of the urinary system is recommended for patients diagnosed with a cancer of the kidney, bladder, ureter or urethra.

Bladder Cancer Treatment

The main types of treatment for cancer of the bladder are surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and chemotherapy. Based on the stage of the cancer, one type or a combination of types of treatment may be recommended. Surgery, alone or combined with other treatments, is used in more than 90 percent of cases.

You'll want to weigh the benefits of each treatment against its possible side effects and/or risks. The treatment you choose should also take into account your general health, age and personal preferences, as well as the cell type and stage of your cancer.

CMC's McKay Urology physician practice is recognized as among the top 50 urology programs by U.S.News & World Report for treatment of bladder and other urologic cancers.

Patients are encouraged to be informed about their treatment options. Kris Gaston, MD, a specialist with McKay Urology in bladder cancer, recommends the following resources:

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