Although it’s true that bladder cancer is most common in older men, the disease can occur in men of all ages and also affects women. In fact, more than 17,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year.1 Women also have worse survival prognoses than men because they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage. The bottom line: for men and women, learning about early warning signs and risk factors for bladder cancer will help reduce risk of developing the disease.
1) Understanding more about the bladder and how it functions is a good place to start:
The bladder is a hollow organ in the pelvis. Its primary function is to store urine (the waste produced when the kidneys filter the blood). Urine enters the bladder through two tubes called ureters and leaves the bladder through a single tube called the urethra. The bladder has a muscular wall that allows it to get larger and smaller as urine is stored and emptied.
The bladder is composed of several different layers of tissue. The inner lining of the bladder is composed of several layers of cells known as transitional cells. Underneath the transitional cells is a layer of connective tissue known as the lamina propria. The muscular wall of the bladder—known as the muscularis propria—forms the layer beyond the lamina propria. A layer of fatty tissue forms the final, outermost layer of the bladder.2
2) Next, learn the basic characteristics of bladder cancer:
A large majority of bladder cancers (more than 90 percent) begin in the transitional cells that line the inside of the bladder.3 These cancers are called transitional cell cancers or urothelial cancers. Other, less common types of bladder cancer include squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma.
At the time of diagnosis, an estimated 70 to 80 percent of patients will have what is referred to as “superficial” bladder cancer.4 This refers to cancer that has not yet reached the bladder muscle. Superficial bladder cancer may involve only the transitional cells (Stage 0 bladder cancer) or may extend into the second layer of the bladder—the lamina propria (Stage I bladder cancer).
The remaining patients are diagnosed with bladder cancer that has spread to the bladder muscle or beyond. Stage II bladder cancer invades the bladder muscle; Stage III bladder cancer has spread to the fatty layer that surrounds the bladder and may also have spread to nearby reproductive organs; and Stage IV bladder cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other sites in the body.
2 Bladder Cancer Treatment Guidelines for Patients. Version II/June 2005. National Comprehensive Cancer Network Web site. Available at: 6. Bladder and Other Urothelial Cancers (PDQ®): Screening. Health Professional Version. National Cancer Institute Web site. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/screening/bladder/HealthProfessional. Accessed April 9, 2007.
4 Bladder Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment. Health Professional Version. National Cancer Institute Web site. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/bladder/HealthProfessional. Accessed April 9, 2007.