Cancer Care

Bladder Cancer | Urinary Cancer

Bladder cancer occurs in the lining of the urinary bladder. Bladder cancer is the 6th most common cancer in the United States. MaineHealth cancer specialists bring their skills and expertise to community hospitals and specialty practices, so patients often do not have to travel far for cancer care. Our specialists offer the most advanced and comprehensive services for treating urinary (bladder) cancer.

Your MaineHealth bladder (urinary) cancer care team may include:

  • Medical oncologists use medicine (chemotherapy, targeted therapy, biotherapy and/or immunotherapy) rather than radiation.
  • Urologists focus on treating cancers of the urinary tract, including the kidneys and bladder, as well as the male reproductive system.
  • Radiation oncologists use high energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding tissue.
  • Surgeons focus on surgical management of the disease.
  • Cancer Patient Navigators make sure you have everything you need to make informed decisions about your care.

Have you been diagnosed with bladder or urinary cancer?

Ask your primary care doctor for a referral to MaineHealth.

Smoking and chemical exposure increases cancer risks

Bladder cancer often affects men and older adults. Being a smoker or getting exposed to certain chemicals increases your bladder cancer risk.

The most common bladder cancer symptom is blood in the urine. People also may have:

  • Painful urination

  • Dark urine

  • Frequent urination

The following tests are used to diagnose and evaluate cancer of the urinary system including ureters, bladder and urethra:

  • Cystoscopy lets your doctor see inside your urethra and bladder by using a narrow tube with a lens and light. The procedure is safe and painless.

  • Biopsy lets your doctor sample cells for testing. The biopsy may be done during a cystoscopy.

  • Urine Cytology involves looking at a urine sample under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

  • Imaging Tests including X-rays, ultrasound, CAT scan, and MRI let your doctor view your urinary tract. Sometimes a dye is used as part of an X-ray or CAT scan procedure.

Bladder cancer treatment can vary

Bladder cancer treatment may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapies, clinical trials, and complementary and integrative therapies.

Surgery: The type of bladder cancer surgery depends on the bladder cancer stage and grade:

  • Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is a procedure that lets your doctor diagnose and treat your bladder cancer. A surgeon inserts an instrument called a cystoscope into the bladder and uses a tool to remove the tumor. Additional treatments may follow, including chemotherapy and immunotherapy, to keep the cancer from coming back.

  • Radical cystectomy removes the entire bladder as well as tissue around it and possibly other organs. In some instances only a part of the bladder is taken out. That procedure is called a partial cystectomy. Your surgeon may perform laparoscopic or robotic surgery for the cystectomy.

Chemotherapy may be given before surgery for bladder cancer.

  • Intravesical chemotherapy puts chemotherapy directly into the bladder through a catheter.

  • Systemic chemotherapy treats cancer cells throughout the body.

Radiation therapy may be done along with chemotherapy to treat bladder cancer.

Immunotherapy uses the body’s own defenses to fight the cancer. Therapy involves placing an immunotherapy drug directly into the bladder.

Getting a second opinion is not uncommon in cancer care. At MaineHealth, we know how important it is to be confident in the approach to your urinary cancer care and treatment. We want to make every effort to facilitate a second opinion, whenever the patient – and in many situations, the provider – wants to seek a second opinion. This is important to us, and our focus on patient-centered care.

What is a second opinion?

A second opinion is when a patient or physician seeks another physician specialist’s review of a patient’s diagnosis or recommended treatment. It is common in cancer, especially if a patient has an unusually complicated condition or rare form of the disease.

When you choose to obtain a second opinion, your physician forwards test results such as radiology images, blood work and pathology slides. The physician may recommend another physician specializing in that cancer, or the patient may find a specialist through a primary care physician, online research or a relative or friend’s recommendation.

To confirm that insurance will cover the cost of second opinion visits, it is recommended that you verify by contacting your insurance company directly.

Preparing for your visit

Like all visits for cancer care, when you are getting a second opinion, it’s helpful to write down your questions in advance and take notes during the conversation. Physicians often recommend that you bring someone with you to help you recall the discussion later. It can be difficult to process what you’re hearing especially if you’re scared or anxious about your condition.

Physicians also may seek another physician’s opinion either on a one-on-one basis, or by asking a multidisciplinary group of cancer specialists to review and weigh in on a patient’s diagnosis or treatment. This team of specialists includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists, as well pathologists, pharmacists and patient navigators. They meet regularly to review patients’ cases.

Where to go for a second opinion?

MaineHealth has sites where patients and their physicians may obtain second opinions. Each site includes urinary cancer experts who have advanced training and experience.

Maine Medical Center

MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care

Creating a Follow-Up Plan

Because bladder cancer often comes back, it is important to talk with your doctor about a follow-up plan. That plan will include a schedule for regular testing after the initial treatment. Regular testing may continue for several years.

Your doctor will decide what the best testing schedule is for you. Testing may occur every three to six months in the first few years after treatment. Testing then may continue annually. People with more aggressive cancer may have more frequent tests.

Is a clinical trial right for me?

Through clinical trials, doctors and scientists try to find new ways to improve treatments and quality of life for people with cancer. Advances are made possible by the invaluable information gathered during a clinical trial.

Cancer Support & Resources

MaineHealth is here to help you and your loved ones through your cancer journey. Learn more about services and support groups that people with cancer and their loved ones often need.