What is bladder cancer?

Updated: Nov 27, 2016
  • Author: Michael Christopher Large, MD; Chief Editor: Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS  more...
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In the United States, bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer (following lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancers), fourth in prevalence among men and eighth among women. More than 90% of bladder cancers are transitional cell in origin, while, in countries with high endemic schistosomiasis rates (eg, Egypt), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the bladder is more common.

Lesions limited to the urothelium (pCIS), mucosa (pTa), or lamina propria (pT1) represent 70%-80% of all newly diagnosed bladder cancer cases. Although prone to recurrences and, less commonly, progression to higher-stage disease, these lesions are typically managed with transurethral resection and selectively with intravesical chemotherapy, such as bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), mitomycin, or thiotepa. Patients with pT1 disease, particularly those with high-risk features (eg, multifocality, recurrence after intravesical therapy, extensive lamina propria invasion, concomitant carcinoma in situ [CIS]) are at considerable risk of disease progression and may benefit from early radical cystoprostatectomy.

Muscle-invasive bladder cancer, defined as tumors that invade the muscularis propria (pT2 or higher), requires more intensive therapy. To date, surgical resection via radical cystoprostatectomy (bladder and prostate) and pelvic lymph node dissection remain the criterion standard for determining accurate pathologic staging, optimizing curative potential, and minimizing the risk of tumor recurrence.

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