Cheat Sheet: Bladder Cancer Terms

Imagine this: You are just recently diagnosed with bladder cancer, and all of the people you are talking to are throwing around a million medical terms a minute. For that, we compiled a list of the most common terms you may come across in your bladder cancer journey. Consider this a cheat sheet to bladder cancer terms.

General bladder cancer terms

Understanding the basics of these bladder cancer terms can ensure better conversations with your doctor.1-4

Bladder: A hollow, expandable organ in the pelvic region with flexible, muscular walls. It stores urine before it is excreted.

Bladder cancer: Cancer that generally forms in tissues lining the bladder. There are several different kinds, including transitional cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma (in thin, flat cells), and adenocarcinoma (in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).

Cystoscope: A thin, lighted instrument used to examine inside the bladder.

Cystoscopy: Exam of the bladder using a cystoscope inserted through the urethra. Tissue samples can be removed and examined under a microscope to determine whether disease is present.

Cytology: The scientific study of the structure and function of cells. The results can be used in the diagnosis of cancer.

Hematuria: A condition when blood is present in the urine. It can take 2 forms, gross and microscopic. Gross is where blood can be seen with the naked eye. Microscopic is where blood can be detected only when examined under a microscope

Intravesical: Within the bladder.

Inflammation: A reaction that can cause symptoms such as swelling, soreness, redness, and warmth often as a reaction to illness or injury.

Pyelogram: A diagnostic X-ray study of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. It uses an injected contrast dye to produce an image that helps evaluate symptoms.

P53: A tumor suppressor gene that is also known as TP53. It codes for a protein that regulates cells as a tumor suppressor. A mutation of the P53 gene has been shown to occur in nearly 40 percent of invasive bladder carcinomas. Some research suggests that the P53 mutation could be a tumor marker indicating the likelihood of developing or presence of a dangerous type of tumor.

Recurrence: Cancer that has returned after a period of time during which it could not be detected.

Trigone: The smooth, triangular area inside the bladder where the ureters and urethra connect to the interior of the bladder. It is sensitive to expansion and signals the brain of the need to empty.

Urinary tract: The body's drainage system for removing urine. Each part of the urinary tract must work together in the correct order.

Urine: Fluid made by the kidneys containing water and waste products. It is stored in the bladder and excreted through the urethra.

Urologist: A doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract system in men and women and in male reproductive organs.

Types and stages of bladder cancer

Understanding your type and stage of bladder cancer gives you a deeper insight on how to approach your treatment options.1-4

Adenocarcinoma: A glandular tumor that grows in cells lining internal organs. It is a rare type of bladder cancer.

Carcinoma: Cancer that forms in the skin or lining of internal organs.

In situ: Cancer that involves only the cells in which it began and that has not spread to nearby tissues.

Metastasize: The spread of cancer cells from the primary site to a new part of the body.

Precancerous: A group of cells that may turn cancerous if left in place or untreated.

Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in thin, flat, squamous cells. Found in the tissue lining of the hollow organs of the body and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Bladder cancer linked to schistosomiasis is often squamous cell carcinoma.

Bladder cancer treatment and related terms

Navigating treatment for bladder cancer can be very different from other cancer treatments. Common treatments you may encounter include:1-4

BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin): A germ used as a vaccine for tuberculosis. In another form, it is used as an immunotherapy treatment for early-stage bladder cancer.

Blue light cystoscopy: A technology to detect and diagnose tumors in the bladder. It uses a contrast solution that is absorbed by cancer cells and makes them turn bright pink or red under a special blue light.

Catheter: A narrow, flexible tube that can be used to drain and collect urine from the bladder.

Immunotherapy: Treatment that uses the body's own immune system to help fight cancer.

Neoadjuvant therapy: First-line treatment to shrink a tumor before the main treatment, which is usually surgery. Examples include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.

Resectoscope: Instrument used in TURBT procedures.

TURBT: A surgical procedure performed with a resectoscope to take tissue samples for diagnosis or removal of a tumor. This procedure accesses the bladder through the urethra.

Urothelial cell carcinoma (UCC): Also called TCC and transitional cell carcinoma, this is the most common form of bladder cancer. It first forms in the urothelial cells in the lining of the bladder.

Reconstructive surgery and diversions

In some cases, bladder cancer may lead to the need for bladder removal and reconstructive surgeries. Below are common terms associated with these procedures.1-4

Neobladder (continent urinary diversion): An internal reservoir created from a section of the bowel. Urine passes through the ureters into the reservoir and is drained by the person. It does not require an external pouch or stoma.

Cystectomy: Surgery to remove all or part of the bladder.

Ileal conduit (incontinent urinary diversion): Urinary tract surgical reconstruction that uses a small piece of the ileum. The ureters are implanted into the conduit closed off at 1 end and open to the skin at the other, forming a stoma.

Indiana pouch: A type of internal reservoir to hold urine that is created to replace the removed diseased bladder. It is not attached to the urethra and needs to be emptied by catheterization.

Ostomy: An operation to create an opening from an area inside the body to the outside (stoma) through which waste passes.

Ostomate: Someone who received an ostomy and lives with a urinary diversion.

Radical cystectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the bladder and surrounding tissues, sometimes including nearby organs where bladder cancer might spread.

Segmental/partial cystectomy: Also called a partial cystectomy, it involves the removal of a bladder tumor as well as some of the surrounding tissue around the tumor.

Stoma: A surgically created opening from an area inside the body to the outside. With an ileal conduit, urine can drain into a small pouch that fits over the stoma and attaches to the skin with adhesive. This pouch can be emptied and cleaned.

Urinary diversion: Multiple methods of redirecting urine produced by the kidneys when the bladder is not fully functional or has been removed. It may be used when other parts of the urinary tract are diseased or defective including the ureters or urethra. Urinary diversions can be temporary or permanent. Some diversions require a stoma.

Urostomy: An operation to create a stoma to divert urine when the bladder and urethra have been damaged or removed.

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