Urologic cancers include cancers of the bladder, kidney, prostate and testicles, all relatively common. Prostate cancer, for example, is the most common cancer in North American men. One out of every 10 men will develop the disease at some time in his life — most often after age 50.
Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men and the ninth most common among women in North America. Each year, more than 50,000 new cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed.
The wall of the bladder is lined with cells called transitional cells and squamous cells. More than 90 percent of bladder cancers begin in the transitional cells. This type of bladder cancer is called transitional cell carcinoma. About 8 percent of bladder cancer patients have squamous cell carcinomas.
Cancer only in cells in the lining of the bladder is called superficial bladder cancer. This type of bladder cancer often comes back after treatment, but it does not tend to progress. If the tumor recurs, the disease often recurs as another superficial cancer in the bladder. Cancer that begins as a superficial tumor may grow through the lining and into the muscular wall of the bladder. This is known as invasive cancer. Invasive cancer may extend through the bladder wall. It may grow into a nearby organ such as the uterus or vagina in women or the prostate gland in men. It also may spread to other parts of the body.
When bladder cancer spreads outside the bladder, cancer cells are often found in nearby lymph nodes. If the cancer has reached these nodes, cancer cells may have spread to other lymph nodes or other organs, such as the lungs, liver or bones.
When cancer spreads or metastasizes from its original place to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary tumor. For example, if bladder cancer spreads to the lungs, the cancer cells in the lungs are actually bladder cancer cells. The disease is metastatic bladder cancer, not lung cancer. It is treated as bladder cancer, not as lung cancer. Doctors sometimes call the new tumor “distant” disease.
Fortunately, the majority of bladder cancers do not grow rapidly and can be treated without major surgery. Thus, most patients with bladder cancer are not at risk of developing a cancer that will spread and become life threatening. Early detection is vital; it allows the prompt treatment that gives patients the best chance for a favorable outlook.
Common symptoms of bladder cancer include:
- Blood in the urine, making the urine slightly rusty to deep red
- Pain during urination
- Frequent urination, or feeling the need to urinate without results
These symptoms are not sure signs of bladder cancer. Infections, benign tumors, bladder stones or other problems also can cause these symptoms.
- Cystectomy — tumors can be “shaved off” using an electrocautery device attached to a cystoscope
- Thermo-chemotherapy — uses radio-frequency energy to directly heat the bladder wall
In its early stages, kidney cancer usually causes no obvious signs or troublesome symptoms. As a kidney tumor grows, symptoms may occur. These may include:
- Blood in the urine. In some cases, blood is visible. In other instances, traces of blood are detected in a urinalysis, a lab test often performed as part of a regular medical checkup.
- A lump or mass in the kidney area.
Other less common symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Recurrent fevers
- Pain in the side that doesn’t go away
- General feeling of poor health
- High blood pressure or a lower than normal number of red cells in the blood (anemia) may also signal a kidney tumor. These symptoms occur less often.
Treatment for kidney cancer depends on the type and stage of the disease. Treatments can include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and/or nephrectomy.