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 the cells that form the lining of the bladder.
Like other cancers, bladder cancer begins when some 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.
Jump ahead on this page
|1. Bladder Cancer Diagnosis|
|2. Bladder Cancer Treatment|
|3. Bladder Cancer Specialists|
|4. Bladder Cancer Research|
Bladder Cancer Diagnosis
Bladder cancer can cause blood in the urine and is typically not painful. To determine a diagnosis, we may use these methods:
- Urine testing to measure cancer cells in the urine.
- FISH testing (fluorescence in situ hybridization) conducted on a bladder tissue sample to determine if cancer is present.
- Cystoscopy to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas.
- Biopsy to obtain bladder tissue for examination under a microscope to determine the presence of cancer.
- Bone scan to determine if the cancer has spread.
- Radiographic imaging to stage the cancer at the time of diagnosis.
Bladder Cancer Treatment
The bladder cancer specialists at Indiana University Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center provide care to patients from throughout the United States. This extensive practice provides a level of expertise you can’t easily find at other medical centers. As a result, we are very familiar even with the rarest forms of these cancers. With experience comes the knowledge to develop the best outcomes.
If you are diagnosed with bladder cancer, an individualized treatment plan will be created for you based on the most current treatment recommendations for your type of cancer and on your specific needs.
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 that uses high energy, penetrating waves or particles to destroy cancer cells or keep them from reproducing.
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 to enable the radiation oncologist to precisely target the tumor while saving normal tissues.
- Four-Dimensional CT Simulation. A CT simulation which also visualizes internal anatomy changes (such as changes in tumor location with the breathing cycle) allowing the radiation oncologist to target the tumor more accurately and further spare normal tissues.
- Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). Uses precise radiographic imaging to more precisely target tumors while sparing normal tissues 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, allowing the highest possible dose of radiation while sparing the normal tissue as much as possible.
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). Advanced radiation delivery that allows delivery of radiation to areas surrounding, or in close proximity to, radiation sensitive tissues. This technique uses a computerized optimization algorithm that allows the radiation oncologist to “paint” the dose around critical normal tissues to more effectively spare them from radiation side effects.
- Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). Special equipment is used to precisely deliver a large radiation dose to a tumor and not to normal tissue.
- Proton Beam Radiation. Particle radiation treatments using charged particles (protons) that can be used to treat tumors in close proximity to critical radiation sensitive tissues and re-irradiate previously treated tissues. This type of therapy allows the highest probability of sparing normal tissues, and lessens the possibility of second tumors related to radiation exposure.
Bladder Cancer Specialists
Bladder Cancer Research
Our commitment to research and to advances in bladder cancer distinguishes our program from other cancer centers. We perform many clinical trials, examining new technologies and new medical therapies we feel have the potential to advance clinical care. Examples of current or recently completed trials include:
- Oral drugs to counteract the effects of narcotic pain medications to promote rapid recovery after bladder cancer surgery.
- New growth factor inhibitors to treat cancers of the bladder.
We have developed extensive research collaborations with researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine, at Indiana University and at Purdue University. Through the development of these collaborations, we can bring our patients the best that research and expert clinical care can offer.
More information about cancer research can be found on the Indiana University School of Medicine website.
At any given time, numerous clinical trials are going on at IU Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Clinical trials are tests of new drugs and other treatments that may be more effective than currently accepted screening, diagnosis, or treatments of bladder cancer. Depending on your diagnosis, you may have access to one or more of these trials.