Episode 48: Bladder Cancer


Episode Summary:

Bladder cancer affects more males than females by 3:1. In this episode, two experts demystify this common cancer, in a detailed and accessible discussion. They cover risk factors, cancer types, symptoms, diagnostic tests, treatments & reconstructive options. Useful information for anyone with bladder cancer or at risk for it.


Max Kates, M.D. Urologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore Maryland; Associate Professor and Director of the Bladder Cancer Program at Johns Hopkins’ Hospital Brady Urologic Institute.

Jonathan Wright, M.D. Urologist at The University of Washington, Seattle Washington; Professor of Urology, Medical Director of the UWMC Urology Clinic at the University of Washington School of Medicine; Associate Professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

During This Episode We Discuss:

  1. Background information on what a bladder is made up of, what bladder tumors are, types of bladder cancers.
  2. Risk factors for bladder cancer. The biggest risk factor is smoking. Other risk factors include environmental exposures, advancing age, and being male. Genetic risk factors or family history do not play a big role, like they do in some other cancer types (for example, prostate cancer).
  3. The main symptom to watch out for is blood in the urine. Visual or detected by a test. Not typically associated with pain.
  4. Diagnostic procedures to identify if there is a tumor, where it is and what type of tumor. Includes cystoscopy (not at all as bad as it might seem, as attested by many a patient!) and/or a CT or MRI scan.
  5. Various treatment options depending on cancer type: non-invasive or invasive. Some non-invasive types require continued monitoring and treatment, similar to periodic colonoscopies that monitor and remove polyps, or dermatology checks that find and remove problematic skin growths.
  6. In more aggressive cancer types, the bladder is removed and a new bladder created. Much progress has been made in this area and a high quality of life can be maintained. 
  7. Patient networks, particularly patients of the doctor(s) treating you, are invaluable sources of information and support.

Quotes (Tweetables):

— “It seems like a mysterious disease because people don’t really visualize their bladders.” 

Dr. Pelman

— Of risk factors, “smoking is number one, probably half of all bladder cancers are caused by it.”

Dr. Wright

— “The cystoscopy is something that people get a lot of anxiety about before it happens, and then I’ll routinely hear ‘That was it?’,  98% of patients, that’s their experience.”

Dr. Kates

— “If you start with a noninvasive low-grade tumor the probability of it…. recurring is moderate to high…but it’s not like it’s not curable, it’s kind of like when you go in and get your [regular] colonoscopy and they see a new polyp and they take that out…..” 

Dr. Wright

  • bcan.org Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network; founded by spouses of bladder cancer patients, comprehensive resource for patient support, information, advocacy, and research.
  • Make connections to local support groups and other patients.

Episode Transcript:

Coming Soon!

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