Bladder Cancer

When it comes to diagnosing and treating bladder cancer, you want the leaders in the field by your side. At Providence Saint John’s, personalized care is top of mind when we diagnose and treat bladder cancer. Our multi-disciplinary team includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, researchers and more. Our Urologic Oncology Program is home to a world-renowned urologist who is an expert in minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic-assisted cancer surgery.

Even as we provide first-class treatment, Saint John’s is studying the bladder in order to better diagnose and treat bladder cancer, and perhaps prevent it altogether. Timothy G. Wilson, M.D., professor and chair of Urology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s, is leading the charge in research studies.

The Bladder

Your bladder is a hollow organ that is part of the urinary tract. It sits in the lower abdomen and stores urine.

The bladder consists of three layers of tissue:

  • The inner layer is the lining. As your bladder fills with urine, surface cells stretch. When you empty your bladder, these cells shrink.
  • The middle layer is muscle tissue that squeezes the urine out of your body when you urinate.
  • The outer layer cloaks the bladder in fat, fibrous tissue and blood vessels.

Bladder Cancer

The body’s cells grow, divide and make new cells in an orderly way. Cancer begins when cells start to grow out of control and form new cells that the body doesn’t need.

This overgrowth of abnormal cells can become a mass of tissue called a tumor.

Each year in the United States, more than 52,000 men and 18,000 women are diagnosed with bladder cancer. Most are over 70 years old.

There are two kinds of bladder tumors:

  • Benign tumors: These are not cancerous, and usually they are not a threat to life. They don’t invade the tissue around them and once they are treated or removed, they usually don’t grow back.
  • Malignant tumors: These are cancerous growths. Although they usually can be removed, they can also grow back.

More than 9 out of 10 Americans with bladder cancer have a type called transitional cell cancer. This cancer begins in the cells on the surface of the inner lining of the bladder.

Bladder cancer cells can invade nearby organs, such as the prostate in a man or the uterus in a woman. They can also break way from a tumor and spread through blood vessels to other parts of the body, including the liver, lungs, bones and lymph nodes. When this happens, the cancer has metastasized and new tumors may form in those parts of the body.