The bladder is an organ comprised of several layers of cells, and its main job is to store urine. When it’s full, it lets you know. But, chances are there are many other things about the bladder that you may not know. In honor of bladder cancer awareness month in May, here are 9 facts:
- There are different types of bladder cancer. Tumors typically form within the different cell layers of the bladder. The name of the specific type of bladder cancer refers to where the cancer started. That’s why bladder cancer is sometimes referred to as urothelial (one of the layers) carcinoma (a fancy word for cancer).
- Blood in the urine is a red flag. The most common sign of bladder cancer is blood in the urine (also called hematuria) that can be seen by the naked eye. Usually it is painless. But, bladder cancer isn’t the only culprit for blood in the urine. It can also be caused by an infection or kidney stones. Blood in the urine requires evaluation by a healthcare professional.
- It’s common. Bladder cancer is the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates 76,960 new cases of bladder cancer and 16,390 deaths from the disease in 2016.
- But lacks funding for research. It is through research that we are able to develop new treatments and ultimately cures. Despite being the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., bladder cancer ranks 23rd in terms of federal funding.
- Some people are at increased risk. Smoking is the greatest risk factor. The good news is you can reduce your risk if you quit. We even have a program to help you get started. Bladder cancer is 3x more common in men than in women, and Caucasians are 2x as likely to develop bladder cancer than African Americans or Hispanics. Risk also increases as you get older and if you have a family history. Visit the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network to learn more about additional risk factors.
- It is diagnosed through different tests. These typically include imaging tests such as ultrasounds, MRIs or CT scans to better see your bladder, urine testing to determine the presence of cancer cells and a biopsy to remove a sample if an area contains cells that appear suspicious.
- Treatment will depend on the type of bladder cancer and how advanced and aggressive it is. Treatments vary by stage and include surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
- Immunotherapy offers promise. Immunotherapy is a very encouraging approach for treating bladder cancers and other tumors arising from the renal pelvis and ureters. There are a number of different types currently in clinical trials and the FDA just approved a new treatment called atezolizumab (brand name: Tecentriq). Our team recently presented and published our findings on another form of immunotherapy for bladder cancer, an antibody drug conjugate called IMMU-132.
- We are dedicated to and on the forefront of bladder cancer research. At Weill Cornell Medicine, we are committed to research in order to improve outcomes for patients with this disease. The newest member of our Genitourinary Oncology team, Dr. Bishoy Faltas, is dedicated to understanding the genetic makeup of bladder cancer. He’s currently focusing on the genomic changes that happen as the tumors become resistant to chemotherapy. We’re also trying to understand why some patients respond well to immunotherapy, while others do not.