Frequently Asked Questions

Bladder Cancer

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What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer starts in the cells that line your bladder.

What increases my risk for bladder cancer?

  • Smoking cigarettes

  • Exposure to certain chemicals found in paint, dyes, rubber, plastic, metal, and automobile exhaust

  • Cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapy medicine

  • A family history of bladder cancer

  • Chronic bladder irritation or inflammation from urinary catheters or frequent urinary tract infections

  • Large amounts of high-fat foods, or low amounts of liquids over long periods

What are the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer?

  • Blood in your urine

  • A sudden need to urinate, or urinating more often than usual

  • Painful urination

  • Pain in your abdomen or pelvis

  • Unexplained weight loss

How is bladder cancer diagnosed?

  • Cystoscopy is a procedure used to look inside the bladder and remove tissue samples or small tumors. Your healthcare provider will insert a thin, lighted tube through your urethra (where urine passes out of your body).

  • A urine sample is checked for blood, an infection, or abnormal cells.

  • An x-ray, CT, or MRI may show the tumor size and location. You may be given contrast liquid to help the tumor show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is bladder cancer treated?

  • Transurethral resection (TUR) is used to burn off the tumor by electrical current or laser. An instrument called a cystoscope is inserted through the urethra.

  • Immunotherapy is medicine given directly into the bladder to help your immune system fight the cancer.

  • Chemotherapy medicines kill cancer cells.

  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-ray beams to kill cancer cells.

  • Surgery may be needed to remove your bladder. Healthcare providers will then need to make an opening to the outside of your body for urine to pass through. Surrounding organs and lymph nodes may also be removed.

What can I do to manage my bladder cancer?

  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk for new or returning cancer. Smoking can also delay healing after treatment. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.

  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. Alcohol may cause you to become dehydrated. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink per day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

  • Eat healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

  • Drink liquids as directed. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you drink more liquids to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

  • Exercise as directed. Exercise may help increase your energy level and appetite. Ask your healthcare provider how much exercise you need and which exercises are best for you.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.

  • You cough up blood.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You are unable to urinate, or you have pain in your lower abdomen.

  • You see blood in your urine.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.

  • You vomit and cannot keep any liquids or food down.

  • Your pain gets worse or does not go away after you take pain medicine.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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