Bladder Diseases And

Your bladder is a hollow organ in your lower abdomen. When urine passes out of the kidneys, it collects in the bladder until it is excreted through a tube called the urethra. Bladder function can be affected by a number of conditions, ranging from minor infections to more serious long-term diseases and cancer.
Conditions that can affect the bladder include urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control) and interstitial cystitis (chronic inflammation of the bladder wall). Although bladder diseases cause pain and discomfort, medications and procedures are available to treat these conditions.
Bladder Cancer
About 56,000 men and 18,000 women will be diagnosed with bladder cancer each year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Most cases of bladder cancer are detected in the early stages, when they are highly treatable.
Causes and Risks of Bladder Cancer
The cause of most cases of bladder cancer is unknown. Factors that may predispose you to the development of bladder cancer include the following:
  • Smoking (responsible for about 50 percent of bladder cancer)
  • Extended exposure to certain cancer-causing chemicals (such as aromatic amines)
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Age 55 and older
  • Male gender
  • Chronic bladder infections/irritation
  • Family or personal history of bladder cancer
  • Bladder birth defects

Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
You should consult a physician if you notice any of the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer, which include the following conditions:
  • Blood in the urine
  • Changes in urination or symptoms of irritation (having to urinate more often, pain or burning during urination, feelings of urgency)

Signs of advanced disease include the following symptoms:
  • Not being able to urinate
  • Lower back pain on one side
  • Swollen feet
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bone pain

Diagnosing Bladder Cancer
Your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination and obtain a complete medical history, including an assessment of possible risk factors for bladder cancer. Tests that may be ordered include cystoscopy, in which a tube with a camera is used to visualize the bladder and obtain tissue for biopsy if necessary, and imaging studies of the urinary system. A urine specimen will be sent to the laboratory for extensive testing.
Treating Bladder Cancer
Treatment for bladder cancer consists of one or more of the following approaches: 
  • Surgery is used in almost all patients with bladder cancer. The type of surgery is dictated by the stage of the bladder cancer; common procedures are transurethral surgery and cystectomy.
  • In intravesical therapy, a drug is placed directly into the bladder so only the cancerous cells in the bladder are affected.
  • Chemotherapy (injected into a vein or muscle, or taken as a pill form) can be used before or after surgery, along with radiation therapy or as the primary treatment for advanced bladder cancer.
  • Radiation therapy is often combined with chemotherapy, given after surgery, used alone in patients who are not candidates for surgery or given to treat or relieve pain in those with advanced bladder cancer. Many innovative approaches to radiation therapy are offered at Houston Methodist.


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in managing bladder disease and cancer at the following convenient locations.