Learn more about bladder cancer from urologist Mark Tyson, M.D., M.P.H.

Hi. I'm Dr. Mark Tyson, a urologist at Mayo Clinic. In this video, we'll cover the basics of bladder cancer: What is it? Who gets it? The symptoms. Diagnosis and treatment. Whether you're looking for answers for yourself or someone you love, we're here to give you the best information available. Bladder cancer is almost always one certain type of cancer called urothelial carcinoma, because it starts when urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder over multiply and become abnormal. Most bladder cancer is caught in the early stages and therefore very treatable.

Who gets it?

While bladder cancer can happen to anyone, it affects certain groups more than others. For instance, smokers. As the bladder works to filter the harmful chemicals ingested in cigarette smoke, it becomes damaged. In fact, smokers are three times more likely to get bladder cancer. People over the age of 55 are more at risk, as are men, more than women. Exposure to harmful chemicals, either at home or at work, previous cancer treatments, chronic bladder inflammation, or a family history of bladder cancer can also play a role.

What are the symptoms?

Bladder cancer symptoms are usually clear and easy to notice. If any of these symptoms are present, it may be worth making an appointment to see a doctor: Blood in the urine, frequent urination, painful urination or back pain. Your doctor may investigate the more common causes of the symptoms first, or may refer you to a specialist, like a urologist or an oncologist.

How is it diagnosed?

To determine if you have bladder cancer, your doctor may start with a cystoscopy, where a tiny camera is passed through the urethra to see into the bladder. If your doctor finds something suspicious, they can take a biopsy or a cell sample that is sent to a lab for analysis. In some cases, your doctor may do a urine cytology, where they examine a urine sample under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Or they may even do imaging tests of your urinary tract, like a CT urogram or a retrograde pyelogram. In both procedures, a safe dye is injected and travels to your bladder, illuminating the cancer cells so they can be seen in X-ray images.

How is it treated?

When creating a treatment plan for bladder cancer, your doctor is considering several factors, including the type and stage of cancer and your treatment preferences. There are five types of treatment options for bladder cancer: Surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. Chemotherapy, which uses cancer-cell-killing chemicals that can travel either locally into the bladder or through the whole body, if needed. Radiation therapy, which uses high-power beams of energy to target cancer cells. Targeted drug therapy focusing on blocking specific weaknesses present within cancer cells. And immunotherapy, a drug treatment that helps your immune system recognize cancer cells and attack them.

What now?

Getting a cancer diagnosis or worrying that cancer will return can be very stressful. However, there are ways to feel more in control and deal with less stress. Stay on top of your follow-up tests and appointments. Even though they might feel uncomfortable or unpleasant, ultimately, they can empower you and your health. Take care of yourself outside of your appointments. Be good to your body with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, consistent exercise and the ever important sleep. Be good to your mind. Try different methods to cope with stress, like journaling or meditation. Maybe find a support group of cancer survivors who understand how you're feeling. If you'd like to learn even more about bladder cancer, watch our other related videos or visit mayoclinic.org. We wish you well.

Aug. 25, 2022