The bladder is a sack which stores urine. When full, the brain receives a signal that the bladder needs to be emptied. This is what causes the feeling that you need to pee/wee.
Sometimes, the cells that make up the bladder can become malignant. This means that they do not work properly any more and multiply uncontrollably, causing a tumour to grow. When this happens, this is called bladder cancer.
Only a very few people who have had cancer before develop bladder cancer.
Due to treatment of the first cancer, survivors sometimes have a higher risk of bladder cancer. There are a number of things anyone can do to lower the risk of developing bladder cancer, such as avoiding smoking.
Am I at higher risk of bladder cancer?
Anyone, including people who have never had cancer treatment, may develop bladder cancer. However, there are some cancer treatments that may increase the risk of having bladder cancer as a subsequent cancer later in life.
The following treatments can increase the risk of bladder cancer:
Any dose of radiotherapy to the bladder or an area including the bladder
Cyclophosphamide or ifosfamide, types of chemotherapy drugs. They particularly increase the risk if you had severe bleeding of the bladder (haemorrhagic cystitis) during treatment
You can find out if you have received any of these treatments by looking at your treatment summary. If you do not have a treatment summary or if you have any questions, do contact your treating hospital.
If you develop bladder cancer, it does not always mean that this is caused by treatment for your first cancer. Bladder cancer may have other causes.
What are the symptoms and signs of bladder cancer?
There are symptoms and signs that can tell you if you might have bladder cancer. You might not have these symptoms and signs at the moment, but it is important to be aware of them in case they may develop in the future.
These symptoms and signs may suggest that you have bladder cancer:
Blood in the urine.
Feeling like you need to pee/wee (unusually) often or suddenly.
A burning feeling while peeing/weeing.
Very often these symptoms have another cause, such as a bladder infection. However, early diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer is very important. If you experience any of these symptoms or signs, please contact your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist soon.
I am at higher risk of bladder cancer. What tests should I have and when?
If you are at higher risk of bladder cancer, we do not recommend regular testing at this point. However, it is important that you are aware of the symptoms and signs of bladder cancer. If you have any of these symptoms or signs, your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist may:
Do a physical exam.
Request a urine test.
What happens if I (might) have bladder cancer?
If you (might) have bladder cancer, your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist will refer you to an oncology team. This team may include, but is not limited to:
Urologist (physician who specialises in the urinary tract, which includes the bladder)
Medical oncologist (physician specialised in cancer)
The specialist may discuss different treatment options with you.
What else can I do?
Knowing that you may be at increased risk of subsequent cancer can be difficult. Talking to friends and family can be helpful as well as specialist counselling and/or contact with support groups, such as patient organisations. For more information on taking care of your mental health, please read: Mental health problems.
To lower your risk of bladder cancer, adopting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle is extremely important. In particular, it is important to avoid smoking. Taking care of your mental health may be beneficial; even small changes to your lifestyle can have a positive impact on both your physical and mental health. For more information on taking up a healthier lifestyle, please read: Health promotion.
It is important that you are aware of the possibility of developing bladder cancer and that you know the symptoms and signs. If you have any further questions or if the information in this brochure concerns you, please contact your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist.
Where can I find more information?
You may find more information about bladder cancer online. However, it is important to be aware that this information is not always up to date or accurate.
On this website, you can also find more information related to this topic:
While the PanCare PLAIN information group strives to provide accurate and complete information that is up-to-date as of the date of publication, you can check with your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist if this summary reflects the most up-to-date information available and whether it is relevant for you.
Please do not rely solely on this information. It is best to also seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner if you have questions regarding a specific medical condition, disease, diagnosis or symptom.
No warranty or representation, expressed or implied, is made concerning the accuracy, reliability, completeness, relevance, or timeliness of this information. PanCare has produced the English version and PanCare is not responsible for the translated versions of this summary.