Bladder Cancer Treatment

An Overview of Bladder Cancer

Properly speaking, cancer is a broad class of diseases concerned with the abnormal growth and proliferation of cells. As this abnormal cellular growth progresses, tumors may form in different parts of the body; the location of nature of these tumors determines how the cancer is described. Bladder cancer, for instance, begins when cells found in the urinary bladder begin to multiply uncontrollably. The resulting tumor may spread to other parts of the body. Patients in Anchorage or Eagle River seeking bladder cancer treatment often turn to specialty oncologists.

Bladder Anatomy

The bladder is located within the pelvis. This hollow organ is comprised of flexible walls made of muscle; the walls expand as urine collects before being expelled through the urethra. The urine flows into the bladder through thin hollow tubes from the kidneys; these tubes are called ureters. Urination occurs when the walls of the bladder contract and urine is forced into the urethra. 

The bladder is an essential part of healthy body function and plays a key role in the elimination of waste products from the body.

Talk to our Bladder Cancer Specialists

Blood in the urine is often one of the first concerns that bring people to a radiation oncologist, though other urinary symptoms may be present. There is currently no standard screening for bladder cancer in people of average risk. Anyone with a higher-than-average risk should speak with a radiation oncologist promptly upon discovering any symptoms. Our Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center provides high-quality treatment, care, and support to patients in need.Risk factors include:

  • Having a history of bladder cancer
  • Being exposed to certain chemicals in the workplace
  • Having certain bladder-related birth defects

Speaking with your radiation oncologist about your concerns is often the first step towards diagnosing this disease. Tests and other diagnostic procedures can be conducted in order to determine the cause of urinary symptoms and provide information that will guide treatment.


The Types & Stages of Bladder Cancer

Prior to patients in Anchorage or Eagle River starting bladder cancer treatment, a diagnosis must be made. Part of the diagnostic process is determining the type of cancer affecting a patient and its stage. There are several different types of bladder cancer; these are among the most common.

Urothelial Carcinoma

Also called transitional cell carcinoma, this cancer is by far the most common type of bladder cancer diagnosed. Urothelial carcinoma begins in the urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder. However, urothelial cells are found throughout the urinary tract, including in the urethra, ureters, and in the renal pelvis – where the kidney connects to a ureter.  Because tumors may be present in any of these locations, the entire urinary tract needs to be checked.

Invasive & Non-Invasive Forms of Bladder Cancer

Along with describing which cells have become cancerous, the diagnostic process can also identify how far progressed the disease has become; in this case, the stage refers to how far the tumor has invaded the walls of the bladder. Two stages are described:

  • Invasive – These cancers have grown into deep layers of the bladder’s muscular walls. These are harder to treat and are more likely to spread.
  • Non-invasive – These cancers are still located in the thin top layers of cells, called the transitional epithelium; cancerous growth has not spread to deeper layers.

Flat & Papillary Cancers

Bladder cancer may also be described according to the growth patterns. Papillary carcinomas extend thin projections from the bladder’s inner surface towards the center. Flat cancers do not grow towards the hollow center.


Bladder Cancer Screening & Treatment

bladder cancer treatmentBladder cancer diagnosis usually begins when a patient visits their radiation oncologist concerned about blood in the urine or other urinary symptoms. People with a history of bladder cancer, with certain bladder-related birth defects, or who have a history of exposure to certain chemicals are at higher risk to develop this disease. While there is no screening currently available for people at normal risk, speaking with a radiation oncologist is the right step to take. Blood in the urine could be due to a number of different conditions, so speaking with a knowledgeable healthcare provider is important. Getting the correct diagnosis will help patients make informed choices about Anchorage bladder cancer treatment and other health care choices. 

Beginning Treatment

Once a patient has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, they will meet with a cancer care team to discuss a treatment plan. There may be many possible treatment options to consider, so patients should take time to learn as much as possible about each choice. Each treatment option has its own spectrum of benefits and risks; these must all be considered before an option is integrated into the larger care plan. These are some of the treatment solutions that a patient may be offered:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Intravesical therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

In some cases, a combination of treatment choices may offer the best solution. For instance, bladder cancer is typically treated with surgery, either alone or in combination with other forms of treatment. A surgical procedure can remove bladder tumors in the early stages. However, new cancers might form elsewhere in the bladder after surgery to remove early-stage bladder tumors has been performed; this is a concern shared by many patients diagnosed with this particular type of bladder cancer. As a result, surgery is sometimes conducted in conjunction with other forms of therapy in order to prevent the formation of new tumors. 

Our oncologists also specialize in the following:


Bladder Cancer: FAQs

Bladder cancer is the nation’s sixth most common form of cancer with more than 73,000 new cases and about 15,000 deaths each year. Even though it is very common, it is one form of cancer that most people know very little about. Bladder cancer, also referred to as urothelial carcinoma, begins when the cells in the lining of the bladder start to grow out of control. It may also occur anywhere in the urethra, renal pelvis and ureters.

The most common symptom is blood in the urine. Other symptoms include irritation when urinating, urgency, and frequency of urination. These are also common symptoms of a urinary tract infection. If you have any of these symptoms, go see your radiation oncologist.

The exact causes remain unknown, but smoking has been found to be the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer, with smokers getting bladder cancer twice as often as people who don’t smoke. Other risk factors include exposure to carcinogens in the environment. Workers in the rubber, chemical and leather industries are at risk, as are hairdressers, machinists, metal workers, painters, textile workers and firefighters.

There are many tests your radiation oncologist can use including ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRI scans to detect irregularities in the bladder wall, which would suggest a possible cancer. The urologist will also perform a cystoscopy by looking inside the bladder with a long thin camera to visually examine your bladder and remove samples of any suspicious areas for biopsy. Urine cytology can be performed to detect cancer cells in urine. Other tests use urine­-based markers to detect cells or substances in a urine sample that are relatively specific to bladder cancer.

Bladder Preservation Therapy –Although bladder removal, with or without chemotherapy, is the treatment usually offered for muscle ­invasive bladder cancer, for some patients it might be possible to use high­ dose external beam radiation therapy in combination with chemotherapy. This allows the patient to keep their bladder, and still leaves the possibility of removing the bladder later if tumors recur.

There are many bladder cancer support groups across the United States. Visit www.bcan.org to find one near you. There is also an online support community available to survivors, caregivers and loved ones 24 hours a day. It is free to join and more than 5,000 members have posted thousands of different discussions supporting each other in battling bladder cancer. There are also general cancer support groups through hospitals and the Cancer Support Community.

Seek medical help: The most important thing you can do if you suspect you may have bladder cancer is to see a physician, preferably a urologist as soon as possible. Most bladder cancers can be treated effectively with early detection. If you are found to have bladder cancer – do not lose hope! Today, there are more than one ­half million bladder cancer survivors in the U.S. alone.


Call Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center For More Information

Contact our radiation oncologists at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center at 907-707-1333 for information.

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