Bladder Cancer Treatment: Finding a Urologist After Diagnosis

After being diagnosed with bladder cancer, the patient will be referred to a urologist, a doctor whose expertise lies in treating urinary tract diseases and conditions. At times, the patient will also need the services of an oncologist.

What to Look for in a Urologist

Urologists specialize in the medical and surgical aspect of the male reproductive system and the urinary system of both sexes. This wide field is further divided into 7 subspecialty areas: female urology, kidney stones, male infertility, neurourology, pediatric urology, renal transplantation, and urologic oncology. Urologists undergo years of rigorous formal training and a number of certification exams before they can apply their specialty in the medical field.

In the United States, prospective urologists must graduate from an approved medical school and complete a urology residency program. The residency program takes at least 5 years and must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Urology is considered a surgery subspecialty where practitioners are required to do a large number of surgical procedures. Because of this, one year of the 5-year residency program is spent on general surgery and 3 years are dedicated to urology. After completing graduate education, surgeons can apply for certification from the American Board of Urology (ABU). They can get their certification once they pass a 2-part test: Qualifying Examination and a subsequent Certifying Examination.

What a Urologist Can Do For a Patient

The urologist will determine the type of cancer the patient has. Bladder cancer can be transitional cell carcinoma, tumors that occur in the cell lining the inside of the bladder, ureters, and urethra. This is the most common type of bladder cancer in America. The other two types of bladder cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, are rarely reported in the United States. Also, there are bladder cancers that involve more than one kind of cell.

Majority of bladder cancer cases are detected at an early stage, making the disease highly treatable. The patient can undergo a surgery called transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT). During the procedure, a small wire loop is passed through the bladder via a cystoscope. The wire loop is designed to burn the cancer cells away with an electric current or high-energy laser. Another type of surgery, segmental cystectomy, involves the removal of the part of the bladder that contains cancer cells.  There is also a non-surgical procedure called biological therapy or immunotherapy that uses drugs to signal the body's immune system to help fight cancer cells.

If discovered in its later stage, bladder cancer can be treated with radical cystectomy, an operation that will remove the entire bladder and the lymph nodes surrounding it. Immediately after this, the patient will need to have a new storage and discharge method for urine. The surgeon can either create a urinary conduit for a urostomy bag, or a small reservoir made of the patient’s intestine, to be emptied using a catheter. Aside from surgery, the urologist can also recommend a late stage bladder cancer patient to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

At Providence Saint John's Health Center, our patients benefit from the expertise of a multi-disciplinary team that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer types prevalent in the urinary and male reproductive systems. The team is home to Timothy Wilson, M.D., a pioneer on minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic-assisted cancer surgery. Talk to one of our urologists today and discuss the bladder cancer treatment best suited for your case.

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Bladder Surgery: What to Expect from Our Urologists