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Screening for Bladder and Other Urothelial Cancers
Overview of Screening
What is screening?
Screening for cancer is examination (or testing) of people for early signs of a certain type of cancer even though they have no symptoms. Scientists have studied patterns of cancer in the population to learn which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They have also studied what things around us and what things we do in our lives may cause cancer. This information helps doctors recommend who should be screened for certain types of cancer, what types of screening tests people should have, and how often these tests should be done. Not all screening tests are helpful, and most have risks such as tearing of the inner lining of the bladder during a biopsy for an abnormal screening test. For this reason, scientists at the National Cancer Institute are studying many screening tests to find out how useful they are.
If your doctor suggests certain cancer screening tests as part of your health care plan, this does not mean he or she thinks you have cancer. Screening tests are done when you have no symptoms. Since decisions about screening can be difficult, you may want to discuss them with your doctor and ask questions about the potential benefits and risks of screening tests and whether they have been proven to decrease the risk of dying from cancer.
If you have signs or symptoms of cancer, your doctor will order certain tests to see whether you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.
Purposes of this summary
The purposes of this summary on bladder cancer screening are to:
Give information on bladder cancer and what makes it more likely to occur (
Give current evidence about the effectiveness of screening tests.
You can talk to your doctor or health care professional about cancer screening and whether it would be likely to help you.
Bladder Cancer Screening
The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen. It stores urine, the waste that is produced when the kidneys filter the blood. The bladder has a muscular wall that allows it to get larger and smaller as urine is stored or emptied.
Risk of bladder cancer
Anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Some of these risk factors for bladder cancer are as follows:
Age: The risk of developing bladder cancer increases with age. Most new cases in both men and women occur in people aged 60 years and older.
Race: Bladder cancer occurs more commonly in whites than in blacks; however, black people who develop bladder cancer are more likely to die from the disease.
Sex: Bladder cancer is more likely to be diagnosed in men than in women; however, women who develop bladder cancer are more likely to die from the disease than men.
Smoking: Individuals who smoke tobacco are more likely to develop bladder cancer than individuals who have never smoked. The risk of developing bladder cancer decreases if one stops smoking. Even 10 years after quitting smoking, however, an ex-smoker still has a higher risk of developing bladder cancer than a never-smoker.
Other risk factors for bladder cancer include chemicals used in making dyes, rubber, and textiles, soot from coal, chronic (persistent) bladder infections, cyclophosphamide (a chemotherapydrug), and radiation therapy directed at the pelvis. People who work as dry cleaners, paper manufacturers, rope and twine makers, and workers in clothing production have a greater chance of developing bladder cancer.
Screening tests for bladder cancer
Hematuria Testing: Urine is tested for the presence of blood to determine if a patient may have bladder cancer or other urinary tract problems. Studies have not shown hematuria testing to be of benefit in detecting bladder cancer.
Cystoscopy: During cystoscopy, a thin, lighted instrument (called a cystoscope) is inserted into the urethra to examine the urethra and bladder. Tissue samples can be removed and examined under a microscope to determine if disease is present. This test has been found to be successful in patients who have been previously treated for bladder cancer. Cystoscopy is not a practical test for screening individuals who do not have a history of bladder cancer.
Other screening methods are being studied. Your doctor can talk to you about what screening tests might be appropriate for you.
Changes to This Summary (06/21/2005)
Links to the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms were added to this summary.
Questions or Comments About This Summary
If you have questions or comments about this summary, please send them to Cancer.gov through the Web site’s Contact Form. We can respond only to email messages written in English.
To Learn More
For more information, U.S. residents may call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Deaf and hard-of-hearing callers with TTY equipment may call 1-800-332-8615. The call is free and a trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.
Web sites and Organizations
The NCI Web site provides online access to information on cancer, clinical trials, and other Web sites and organizations that offer support and resources for cancer patients and their families. There are also many other places where people can get materials and information about cancer treatment and services. Local hospitals may have information on local and regional agencies that offer information about finances, getting to and from treatment, receiving care at home, and dealing with problems associated with cancer treatment.
The NCI has booklets and other materials for patients, health professionals, and the public. These publications discuss types of cancer, methods of cancer treatment, coping with cancer, and clinical trials. Some publications provide information on tests for cancer, cancer causes and prevention, cancer statistics, and NCI research activities. NCI materials on these and other topics may be ordered online or printed directly from the NCI Publications Locator. These materials can also be ordered by telephone from the Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237), TTY at 1-800-332-8615.
The NCI's LiveHelp service, a program available on several of the Institute's Web sites, provides Internet users with the ability to chat online with an Information Specialist. The service is available from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Information Specialists can help Internet users find information on NCI Web sites and answer questions about cancer.
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PDQ is a comprehensive cancer database available on NCI's Web site.
PDQ is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. Most of the information contained in PDQ is available online at NCI's Web site. PDQ is provided as a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health, the federal government's focal point for biomedical research.
PDQ contains cancer information summaries.
The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries are available in two versions. The health professional versions provide detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions provide current and accurate cancer information.
The PDQ cancer information summaries are developed by cancer experts and reviewed regularly.
Editorial Boards made up of experts in oncology and related specialties are responsible for writing and maintaining the cancer information summaries. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made as new information becomes available. The date on each summary ("Date Last Modified") indicates the time of the most recent change.
PDQ also contains information on clinical trials.
People who are at high risk for a certain type of cancer may want to take part in a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether a method of finding cancer earlier can help people to live longer. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients and those who are at risk for cancer. During screening clinical trials, information is collected about screening methods, the risks involved, and how well they do or do not work. If a clinical trial shows that a new method is better than one currently being used, the new method may become "standard."
Listings of clinical trials are included in PDQ and are available online at NCI's Web site. Descriptions of the trials are available in health professional and patient versions. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are also listed in PDQ. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615.