Bladder cancer is another urinary tract cancer that causes few if any symptoms in the early stages. Patients typically are diagnosed after finding blood in the urine. In the course of the evaluation by the urologist, the bladder is inspected with a small scope passed through the urethra, and a typical growth is noted on the bladder lining.
The abnormal tissue growth associated with bladder cancer must be removed surgically to confirm the diagnosis. This surgery is done with no incisions and, in most cases, as an outpatient surgery procedure. During the procedure, the tumor is removed from the bladder lining using a small scope passed through the urethra.
Early, less aggressive bladder cancers are limited to the bladder lining and are considered "superficial". Superficial bladder cancers are typically cured with the procedure described above. However, since 40 to 60 percent of bladder cancers recur, further office treatment may be recommended in certain cases. This treatment is an immune therapy called BCG. BCG is not chemotherapy. BCG is medication placed into the bladder using a small catheter once a week for 3 to 6 weeks. The immune system is activated by the BCG which lowers the risk of recurrent cancer 50 percent.
In other instances, the bladder cancer may be more aggressive and may penetrate the lining of the bladder. These cancers are considered "invasive" since they extend into the bladder muscle that surrounds the bladder lining. Invasive bladder cancer is rarely cured with the procedure described above. More extensive treatment is usually necessary when bladder cancer is invasive. This treatment traditionally consists of radical surgery to remove the entire bladder. More recent developments in chemotherapy have also made combination chemotherapy and radiation therapy an acceptable option for most patients with invasive bladder cancer if they refuse to undergo radical surgery.
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