The words 'bladder cancer' can wreak havoc on anyone's hope, but often bladder cancer is highly treatable and survivable. Even though bladder cancer is known as a repeat offender – it often reoccurs – medical professionals have been gaining the know-how and technology to effectively treat this disease.
The bladder is a hollow, muscular organ that stores urine, which is liquid waste that has been filtered from your blood by your kidneys. The bladder is made up of multiple layers of tissue.
Most bladder cancers start in the bladder's inner tissue lining. Then, depending on the classification and aggressiveness of the tumors, it may grow into the bladder's outer layers.
Like many cancers, catching bladder cancer in its earlier stages is optimum for successful treatment. However, new treatments, including photodynamic therapy, gene therapy and targeted therapies, are improving survival rates.
Bladder cancer is generally staged, or classified, by how far it has grown into the bladder tissue layers or surrounding tissue. There are two types of stages for bladder cancer – clinical and pathologic.
In the clinical stage, doctors begin drawing up a treatment plan by looking at blood, urine and tissue samples, imaging tests (such as CT scans) and results of a physical exam.
If surgery is done, then the cancer classification is moved into the pathologic stage. For this, doctors use all the information from the clinical stage plus any results from surgery.
Bladder cancer, like other cancers, is quantified through a Roman numeral labeling system of 0 through IV (0-4). Typically, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that nearly 70,000 people were diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2011. Often, medical professionals use the five-year survival rate, or the percentage of people diagnosed with the disease who are still alive in five years, as a benchmark. However, it is important to remember that statistics don't tell the whole story. Because this data is often years old, it does not reflect recent medical and technological advances that effect outcomes.
Based on historical data, the stage of bladder cancer plays a role in the survival rate. The following is bladder cancer survival rates based on stage:
A bladder cancer diagnosis is by no means a death sentence. There are several factors that lead to a better prognosis, including early detection, size, stage and grade of the cancer. Also, the patient's age and general health plays a role. It is important to surround yourself with a knowledgeable medical team that will help you through treatment.
Today, there are many treatment options for those with early- and late-stage diagnoses. There are four standard treatments: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and biologic therapy, which uses the patient's immune system to fight the cancer.
In addition, there are several new treatments that are showing promise in the clinical-trial phase.