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Bladder Cancer

Among men, bladder cancer is the 8th most common cause of cancer death. The overall survival rate for bladder cancer when it is caught early is 70 percent. Bladder cancer can often be caught early because of persistent symptoms, like noticeable changes in urination. A simple urinalysis or culture can be completed by your doctor to determine whether symptoms have been caused by a simple infection or something more.

At CHI Saint Joseph Health, we’re committed to providing compassionate, high-quality cancer care to the Central Kentucky communities we serve. From the most advanced imaging technology available, to a full range of treatment options and support services, you’ll find everything you need at locations close to home.

Learn more about our comprehensive care below. Learn more about our comprehensive care below. To request a referral to one of our caring specialists, call 844.303.9355, or find a provider anytime online.

About Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is a cancer that starts in the bladder, the organ that holds and releases urine. It is located in the lower belly area, above the groin. Most bladder cancers start in the lining of the bladder and grow into the bladder wall. At this stage, it is harder to treat. Researchers are not sure what causes this type of cancer but have found there are certain risk factors that cause bladder cells to mutate.

Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

In most cases, bladder cancer causes blood in the urine, which changes the color to orange, pink or a shade of red. Early stages cause bleeding but little to no pain. Blood in the urine should always be checked by a doctor to ensure that there are no issues with the kidneys or bladder.

Bladder cancer can also cause changes in urination like:

  • Frequent urination
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Urgent urination, even when the bladder is not full
  • Trouble urination
  • Weak urination stream

Late stage bladder cancer occurs when it has spread to other parts of the body and can cause symptoms, including:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Lower back pain on one side
  • Weight loss without trying
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in the feet
  • Bone pain

Risk Factors

There are risk factors for bladder cancer you cannot change, which can include:

  • Race and ethnicity; Caucasian men are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer
  • Age: the average age of diagnosis is 73
  • Gender; men are four times as likely as women
  • Chronic bladder infection & irritation
  • Personal medical history
  • Birth defects
  • Genetic predispositions
  • Prior cancer treatment

Just because you may have a risk factor doesn’t mean you will get bladder cancer, but it important to know what they are so that you can avoid preventable factors.

  • Smoking is the highest risk factor, with smokers being three times more likely to get bladder cancer as nonsmokers. In fact, over half of people diagnosed with bladder cancer are smokers.
  • Workplace exposure to aromatic amines, like benzidine and beta-naphthylamine, can cause cancer. These are chemicals commonly found in paint, printers, hair dyes, and diesel fumes.  If you work in an industry that uses these chemicals frequently, you might be at risk.
  • Some diabetic supplements and drugs have been linked to bladder cancer, but it is under active research by the FDA.
  • Arsenic in drinking water is not common in the US but has been linked to well water and some public water systems in rural areas.
  • Dehydration is highly preventable by ensuring that you drink enough fluids, especially water. Dehydration may cause you to urinate less, leaving waste and chemicals in your bladder longer.


Bladder cancer is usually detected at more advanced stage because it can grow quite large before it causes discomfort or pain. Tumors are also difficult to detect in a standard physical because the bladder is deep inside the body. Some minimally invasive diagnosis options are:

  • CT (Computed tomography) scan
  • Physical examination by a urologist
  • Test of your urine for blood and cancer cells via urinalysis

In some cases, your doctor may recommend a cystoscopy; they will insert a thin tube with a camera through your urethra into your bladder to look inside and take a tissue sample, if necessary.


If you find that you have bladder cancer, rest assured you have some of the Commonwealth’s best experts by your side. Our dedicated team—including board-certified medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons and more specialists—will work closely with you to create a personalized treatment plan, which may include one or a combination of:


Surgery may be performed to remove a tumor, as well as some surrounding tissue to help ensure the cancer is eliminated. In more advanced cases, sometimes the entire bladder and nearby lymph nodes will be removed.


Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells with medicines delivered in varied cycles through either an IV or a pill. It is administered directly into the bladder. Whenever possible, CHI Saint Joseph Health uses newer medications that help minimize the side effects of chemotherapy.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays to shrink or kill cancer cells. Radiation may also be used to help prevent recurrence of disease. These brief, painless treatments can be specifically directed at the part of the body where the cancer is located. Treatments are delivered by linear accelerators, where patients lie on a table in a specially designed room.

Patients are often asked to undergo treatment with a full bladder, as this may lower the risk of side effects.

CHI Saint Joseph Health uses the most advanced technology available to target the tumor with extreme precision. Treatments include 3D conformal therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and volumetric modulated radiation therapy (VMAT).  Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) and use of a hexapod table ensure treatments are focused directly on the target, while minimizing dose to surrounding healthy tissue.


Bladder cancer is often treated with immunotherapy. In this treatment, a medication triggers your immune system to attack and kill the cancer cells. Immunotherapy for bladder cancer is usually performed using the Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine (commonly known as BCG): a cancer drug called interferon is directly applied to the bladder through a thin, flexible tube called a Foley catheter.


Throughout your journey, you’ll find a variety of cancer support services to meet your physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs.

Cancer Care Locations

To make your appointment, find a cancer specialist anytime online or learn more about our dedicated team at a CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care location near you:

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