An overview of bladder cancer of the most common types of bladder cancer—including superficial and invasive.
Most cancers are named for the part of the body or type of cells in which they begin. About 90 percent of bladder cancers are transitional cell carcinomas, cancers that begin in the cells lining the bladder. Cancer that is confined to the lining of the bladder is called superficial bladder cancer. After treatment, superficial bladder cancer can recur; if this happens, most often it recurs as another superficial cancer.
In some cases, cancer that begins in the transitional cells spreads through the lining of the bladder and invades the muscular wall of the bladder. This is known as invasive bladder cancer. Invasive cancer may grow through the bladder wall and spread to nearby organs.
Bladder cancer cells may also be found in the lymph nodes surrounding the bladder. If the cancer has reached these nodes, it may mean that cancer cells have spread to other lymph nodes and to distant organs, such as the lungs. The cancer cells in the new tumor are still bladder cancer cells. The new tumor is called metastatic bladder cancer rather than lung cancer because it has the same kind of abnormal cells that were found in the bladder.
Preparing for Treatment
Many people with cancer want to learn all they can about the disease and their treatment choices so they can take an active part in decisions about their medical care. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, shock and stress are natural reactions. These feelings may make it difficult to think of everything to ask the doctor. Often, it helps to make a list of questions. To help remember what the doctor says, patients may take notes or ask whether they may use a tape recorder. Some people also want to have a family member or friend with them when they talk to the doctor--to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to listen.
People do not need to ask all of their questions or remember all of the answers at one time. Questions may arise throughout the treatment process. Patients may ask doctors, nurses, or other members of the health care team to explain things further or to provide more information.
These are some questions a patient may want to ask the doctor before treatment begins:
- What is the diagnosis?
- What is the stage of the disease?
- What is the grade of the disease?
- What are the treatment choices? Which do you recommend? Why?
- What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment?
- What are the chances that the treatment will be successful?
- What new treatments are being studied in clinical trials? Would a clinical trial be appropriate?
- How long will treatment last?
- Will treatment affect my normal activities? If so, for how long?
- What is the treatment likely to cost?
It is important for people who have had cancer to have regular follow-up examinations after their treatment is over. For people with bladder cancer who have not had their bladder removed, the doctor will check the bladder with a cystoscope and remove any superficial tumors that may have recurred. Patients also may have urine tests to check for cancer cells. Follow-up care may also include blood tests, a CT scan, a chest x-ray, or other tests.
Follow-up care is an important part of the overall treatment process, and people with cancer should not hesitate to discuss it with the doctor. Regular follow-up care ensures that changes in health are noted so that recurrent cancer or other problems can be treated as soon as possible. Between checkups, people who have had bladder cancer should report any health problems as soon as they appear.
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This article is adapted from information in the What You Need to Know About™ Cancer series, published by the National Cancer Institute.