Bladder Cancer

The bladder is a hollow organ located in the lower abdomen. It receives and stores urine coming from the kidneys. Bladder cancer usually starts in cells that form the lining of the bladder.

Like other cancers, bladder cancer begins when damaged cells begin to grow out of control. Unlike normal cells, which live for a time and then die in the body’s natural renewal process, cancerous cells live beyond their normal life and begin to crowd out healthy tissue. In many patients, there has been some exposure to carcinogens such as cigarette smoking or occupational exposure.

Bladder cancer is typically not painful, but it can cause blood in the urine. To make a diagnosis, we may use these methods:

  • Urine testing measures cancer cells in the urine.
  • FISH testing (fluorescence in situ hybridization) is conducted on bladder tissue sample to determine if cancer is present.
  • A cystoscopy looks at the inside of the bladder and urethra to check for adnormal areas.
  • A biopsy collects bladder tissue for examination under a microscope to determine the presence of cancer.
  • A bone scan determines if cancer has spread.
  • Radiographic imaging stages the cancer at the time of diagnosis.

Bladder Cancer Treatment

Bladder cancer specialists at the Indiana University Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center provide care to patients from throughout the United States. This extensive practice provides a level of expertise not easily found at other medical centers. Our knowledge and experience with rare forms of bladder cancers leads to better outcomes for patients.

If you are diagnosed with bladder cancer, a customized treatment plan will be created for you based on your health and the most current treatment recommendations for your type of cancer.

When appropriate, therapeutic options for bladder cancer can include one or more of the following:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer.
  • Chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells with drugs.
  • Radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells, or keep them from reproducing by using high-energy, penetrating waves or particles.

Radiation therapy treatments can include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) simulation. A radiation planning process using a CT scan to define tumor targets and internal anatomy in three dimensions, allowing the radiation oncologist to precisely target the tumor while saving healthy tissue.
  • Four-dimensional CT simulation. A CT simulation also reveals internal anatomy changes (such as changes in tumor location with the breathing cycle), allowing the radiation oncologist to accurately target the tumor more accurately and further preserve normal, healthy tissues.
  • Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT). Uses precise radiographic imaging to more directly treat tumors while sparing healthy tissue at each daily radiation treatment.
  • Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT). An IGRT technique that uses a limited CT scan prior to a daily radiation treatment to verify targeted internal anatomy in three dimensions before the treatment is delivered. This technique allows extreme precision of targeting the radiation beams.
  • Three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy. Guided by a computer-generated three-dimensional picture of the tumor, which allows the highest possible dose of radiation while sparing healthy tissue.
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Advanced radiation technology that uses a computerized optimization algorithm to aim radiation at targets located near radiation-sensitive tissue.
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). Special equipment is used to precisely deliver a large radiation dose to a tumor and not to normal tissue.

Bladder Cancer Research

Our program is distinguished from others because of an enduring commitment to improving treatments for bladder cancer through research. We perform many clinical trials to find new technologies and medical therapies that can advance clinical care. Examples of current or recently completed trials include:

  • Oral drugs to counteract the effects of narcotic pain medications and promote rapid recovery after bladder cancer surgery.
  • New growth factor inhibitors to treat cancers of the bladder.

We maintain extensive research collaborations with researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine. These collaborations bring our patients the most advanced research and clinical care. More information about cancer research can be found on the Indiana University School of Medicine website.

At any given time, numerous clinical trials are active at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. Clinical trials test new drugs and other treatments that may be more effective than existing standards for screening, diagnosis and care. Depending on your diagnosis, you may have access to one or more of these trials.