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Bladder Cancer

Learn more about your options for bladder cancer care.

Bladder cancer is curable when it’s diagnosed and treated early. That’s why you should trust your care to our comprehensive bladder cancer program.

We’re among the top programs in the country for bladder cancer treatment. Our team performs the most robot-assisted surgeries in the field of urology each year. Time is critical in treatment, and we’re here to get you the personalized, advanced bladder cancer care you need as soon as possible.

Why choose Henry Ford for bladder cancer care?

Our job is to give you the best bladder cancer care possible. Our comprehensive bladder cancer program includes:

  • A team approach to cancer care, including a partnership with a strong medical oncology group
  • Bladder reconstruction during surgery when needed
  • Doctors who research new treatments and improved therapies, as well as offer the latest clinical trials
  • Faster care than the typical three-month window -- prompt consultations and follow-up visits
  • Nerve-sparing surgeries for men to preserve sexual function
  • Support from others who can understand your experience through the Detroit Bladder Cancer Network
  • Unmatched experience in robot-assisted surgery -- we established the International Robotic Cystectomy Consortium to improve surgical quality and safety

Risk factors for bladder cancer

Several characteristics could make you more likely to develop bladder cancer. These characteristics include:

  • Age (bladder cancer is more common in people older than 55)
  • Being Caucasian (white)
  • Chronic bladder infections or irritation
  • Exposure to chemicals called aromatic amines, which are used in dyes
  • Male gender
  • Smoking
  • Working in printing or manufacturing facilities, especially those that manufacture leather, paint, or rubber products

Bladder cancer symptoms & diagnosis

Tumors typically start growing on the bladder’s inner surface. If these tumors are cancerous, they may spread into the muscle wall and to other areas of the body. Tumors can block the flow of urine, causing swelling and damage to one or both kidneys.

Bladder cancer symptoms include:

  • Painless blood in the urine (hematuria): the most common symptom, which sometimes is visible only under a microscope
  • More frequent or urgent urination
  • Pain in the pelvis or side
  • Painful, burning urination

These also can be symptoms of kidney problems or other urological conditions, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis. The tests we use to diagnose bladder cancer include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Cystoscopy -- our team inserts a thin tube with a camera through your urethra into your bladder to look inside and take a tissue sample if necessary
  • Physical examination
  • Urinalysis (a test of your urine for blood and cancer cells)

Depending on the results of these tests, you might need additional studies or procedures.

Bladder cancer treatment

If we find that you have bladder cancer, you and your loved ones will work with our doctors to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Surgery is the typical treatment for bladder cancer. Our surgeons can remove just the tumor and leave the rest of your bladder intact if the tumor hasn’t invaded the muscle. We’re able to do this for 60 to 70 percent of the bladder cancer cases we treat. If surgery isn’t an option, our doctors may be able to provide nonsurgical treatments.

Team approach to bladder cancer

Our specialists work together to care for you. Our team approach brings together a wide range of specialists. We hold weekly tumor boards (meetings of cancer specialists to review patients’ cases and make treatment recommendations) to update each patient’s personalized care plan. Our team members include:

  • Enterostomal nurses: nurses who specialize in helping patients live with surgically reconstructed bladders or new urinary pathways requiring catheters or urine bags
  • Genitourinary floor nurses: nurses specifically dedicated to caring for urologic patients
  • Genitourinary medical oncologist: a specialist with advanced training in treating advanced urologic cancers with chemotherapy
  • Genitourinary pathologist: a pathologist with additional training in urologic cancers
  • Oncologic urologist: a surgeon with advanced training in urological cancers
  • Radiation oncologist: a specialist trained in treating cancer with radiation therapy
  • Robotic surgery team: surgeons, nurses, and surgical assistants who have performed thousands of robot-assisted surgeries

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