Screening for Bladder and Other Urothelial Cancers
Overview of Screening
What is screening?
Screening for cancer is examination (or testing) of people for early signs of a certain type of cancer even though they have no symptoms. Scientists have studied patterns of cancer in the population to learn which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They have also studied what things around us and what things we do in our lives may cause cancer. This information helps doctors recommend who should be screened for certain types of cancer, what types of screening tests people should have, and how often these tests should be done. Not all screening tests are helpful, and most have risks such as tearing of the inner lining of the bladder during a biopsy for an abnormal screening test. For this reason, scientists at the National Cancer Institute are studying many screening tests to find out how useful they are.
If your doctor suggests certain cancer screening tests as part of your health care plan, this does not mean he or she thinks you have cancer. Screening tests are done when you have no symptoms. Since decisions about screening can be difficult, you may want to discuss them with your doctor and ask questions about the potential benefits and risks of screening tests and whether they have been proven to decrease the risk of dying from cancer.
If you have signs or symptoms of cancer, your doctor will order certain tests to see whether you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.
Purposes of this summary
The purposes of this summary on bladder cancer screening are to:
You can talk to your doctor or health care professional about cancer screening and whether it would be likely to help you.
Bladder Cancer Screening
The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen. It stores urine, the waste that is produced when the kidneys filter the blood. The bladder has a muscular wall that allows it to get larger and smaller as urine is stored or emptied.
Urine passes from the two kidneys into the bladder through two tubes called ureters. Urine leaves the bladder through another tube, the urethra.
Risk of bladder cancer
Bladder cancer is the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States.
Anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Some of these risk factors for bladder cancer are as follows:
Age: The risk of developing bladder cancer increases with age. Most new cases in both men and women occur in people aged 60 years and older.
Race: Bladder cancer occurs more commonly in whites than in blacks; however, black people who develop bladder cancer are more likely to die from the disease.
Sex: Bladder cancer is more likely to be diagnosed in men than in women; however, women who develop bladder cancer are more likely to die from the disease than men.
Smoking: Individuals who smoke tobacco are more likely to develop bladder cancer than individuals who have never smoked. The risk of developing bladder cancer decreases if one stops smoking. Even 10 years after quitting smoking, however, an ex-smoker still has a higher risk of developing bladder cancer than a never-smoker.
Other risk factors for bladder cancer include chemicals used in making dyes, rubber, and textiles, soot from coal, chronic (persistent) bladder infections, cyclophosphamide (a chemotherapydrug), and radiation therapy directed at the pelvis. People who work as dry cleaners, paper manufacturers, rope and twine makers, and workers in clothing production have a greater chance of developing bladder cancer.
Screening tests for bladder cancer
Hematuria Testing: Urine is tested for the presence of blood to determine if a patient may have bladder cancer or other urinary tract problems. Studies have not shown hematuria testing to be of benefit in detecting bladder cancer.
Cystoscopy: During cystoscopy, a thin, lighted instrument (called a cystoscope) is inserted into the urethra to examine the urethra and bladder. Tissue samples can be removed and examined under a microscope to determine if disease is present. This test has been found to be successful in patients who have been previously treated for bladder cancer. Cystoscopy is not a practical test for screening individuals who do not have a history of bladder cancer.
Other screening methods are being studied. Your doctor can talk to you about what screening tests might be appropriate for you.
Changes to This Summary (06/21/2005)
The PDQcancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.
Links to the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms were added to this summary.
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