Clinical Research Is Improving Your Chances of Surviving Bladder Cancer

May 9, 2023

By Ilia Zeltser, M.D.

While more than 82,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with bladder cancer this year, and nearly 16,700 are expected to die from the disease, survival rates are improving thanks to clinical research trials.

In recognition of Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, here are some recent advancements in stopping the disease in its early stages, as well as later-stage care options.

Here’s How Bladder Cancer Develops

Your bladder is a hollow organ that stores urine until it’s time to urinate. In some people, the bladder’s cells begin to multiply uncontrollably, due to a mutation, and eventually develop into cancerous tumors.

This mutation typically starts in the cells of the bladder’s innermost lining, but also in the urethra. If undetected, tumors can invade the bladder muscle, surrounding tissue, and other organs and the lymph nodes.

Common symptoms include blood in the urine, back pain, and frequent, painful urination.

What Increases the Risk of Bladder Cancer?

Risk factors of bladder cancer include smoking, age, and gender. Men are three times more likely to develop the disease than women, for example, and nine in 10 of those diagnosed are older than 55.

Other contributing factors include exposure to certain industrial chemicals. Women who have received radiation treatment for cervical cancer, or the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide also may be at an elevated risk. When diagnosed early, bladder cancer is highly treatable.

Clinical Trials Bring New Cures for Bladder Cancer

Thanks to clinical researchers and patient volunteers, treatments are improving every year. Since 2015 bladder cancer incidences and deaths have decreased by about 2% a year

One significant clinical finding involves a group of drugs that guide your immune system to kill the cancer cells. These drugs, called immune checkpoint inhibitors, teach your body to automatically fight the disease itself.

You Can Be Treated at Any Stage

If you or someone you care about is living with bladder cancer, such new drug therapies could help stop it. In addition, MidLantic Urology provides these treatment options.

Minimally invasive treatments for patients in the early stages (T1) of the disease include:

  • Transurethral resection of the bladder (TURB) – This procedure removes small tumors from your bladder lining, using a surgical instrument inserted through the urethra.
  • Alternate drug treatments – We apply immunotherapies or chemotherapy blends directly into your bladder, using a catheter.

If the cancer has become invasive (T2 to T4):

  • Partial bladder removal – This surgery cuts out the parts of the bladder invaded by tumors. Radiation and chemotherapy may follow.
  • Total bladder removal (radical cystectomy) –If the cancer is more advanced, the surgeon will remove the entire bladder and surrounding lymph nodes. In men, this procedure often includes the prostate and seminal vesicles. In women, the urethra and uterus are removed. The surgeon will then build a replacement bladder, sometimes using parts of the intestine.
  • Chemotherapy – In this treatment, you receive a single drug or combination of drugs to shrink the tumor before surgery and to stop the tumor from growing back.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation – If the cancer cannot be entirely removed through surgery, your doctor will consider a combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

You Can Help to Find a Cure

Improving cures for bladder cancer takes constant research through closely monitored trials. If you have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, you might qualify for a clinical trial at MidLantic Urology. Review our full schedule of open trials and enrollment opportunities, here.

To learn more about bladder cancer and the post-operative care options we provide, visit our dedicated microsite, here. If you have other questions about your urinary health, or would like to make an appointment at one of our 42 locations in Philadelphia and surrounding counties, visit us here.

Schedule an appointment with a MidLantic Urology Physician near you today!

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