Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer
Bladder cancer accounts for approximately 70,000 new cases of cancer per year, with approximately 15,000 deaths each year attributable to the disease. Our bladder cancer specialty team includes urologic oncologists offering advanced treatment options. Learn about the types of bladder cancer along with  


The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower part of the abdomen shaped like a small balloon and has a muscular wall that allows it to get larger or smaller. The bladder stores urine until it is passed out of the body. Urine is the liquid waste made by the kidneys when they clean the blood. The urine passes from the two kidneys into the bladder through two tubes called ureters. When the bladder is emptied during urination, the urine goes from the bladder to the outside of the body through another tube called the urethra.

Types of bladder cancer

There are three main types of bladder cancer that begin in cells in the lining of the bladder. These cancers are named for the type of cells that become malignant (cancerous): Cancer confined to the lining of the bladder is called superficial bladder cancer. Cancer that begins in the transitional cells may spread through the lining of the bladder and invade the muscle wall of the bladder or spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes; this is called invasive bladder cancer. Fortunately, two-thirds of newly diagnosed bladder cancers occur only on the lining of the bladder (superficial bladder cancer) and can be treated effectively by the urologic surgeons at The University of Kansas Health Center.

Blood in the urine (called hematuria) is usually the first sign of bladder cancer. Other symptoms, which may not be recognized initially, include the need to urinate frequently both day and night, and the inability to hold the urine once the urge to urinate occurs. A simple test called cystoscopy can usually diagnose the cancer. Our physicians are experts in the diagnosis of bladder cancer as well as its treatment. In addition, we employ a number of methods to keep those with superficial bladder cancer from recurring.

For those patients with invasive cancer (into the muscle wall of the bladder), surgery to remove the entire bladder (cystectomy) is often needed. Our urologic oncologists will employ options to preserve the bladder when possible (bladder sparing), however, if removal is needed, our physicians are among the nation’s most experienced.

For patients whose bladder must be removed, surgeons must create a new way for the body to store and empty urine. Our urologic oncologists are well-versed in the different urinary diversion options. One such option performed by our urologists is the construction of a “new” bladder using the intestine, called a neobladder. This allows patients to urinate in a normal fashion. We have had good success with these reconstructive techniques since their inception.

Our Stoma Boot Camp is a free two hour session offered to all patients scheduled to undergo a radical cystectomy with ileal conduit in order to help patients adjust to life after surgery. It provides patients an opportunity to learn alongside their treatment team about their upcoming operation, to go over post-operative expectations, and to get hands on teaching from our high skilled ostomy and wound team. Our goal is to improve patient’s quality of life, post-operative outcomes, and provider satisfaction to name a few. As a prior patient said, you would be amiss not to attend.

Unfortunately, some patients will have bladder cancer that has spread beyond the bladder (to the lungs, liver or bones) prior to surgery or after the removal of the bladder. 

We have a specialized team of medical oncologists who specialize in the treatment of advanced urologic malignancies and has experience in the treatment of metastatic bladder cancer. Working closely with the urologic oncologists, our oncologists provide the latest and most advanced chemotherapy and immunotherapy for the treatment of bladder cancer.

Dr. Peter Van Veldhuizen is a medical oncologist who specializes in the treatment of urologic malignancies and has vast experience in the treatment of metastatic bladder cancer. Working closely with the urologic oncologists at our hospital, Dr. Van Veldhuizen provides the latest and most advanced chemotherapy for the treatment of bladder cancer.

Risk factors for bladder cancer include the following:

Smoking is the most common cause of bladder cancer. It is rare for patients who are not smokers develop bladder cancer. It takes 20 years of not smoking before the risk begins to decrease. However, patients who continue to smoke after being diagnosed with bladder cancer do much more poorly than those who quit. So quitting smoking is an essential part of being treated for bladder cancer. Your physician has many ways to assist you with this.

Other risk factors:
Being exposed to certain substances at work, such as rubber, certain dyes and textiles, paint, and hairdressing supplies. Chronic irritation of the bladder from infection or long-term catheterization can also lead to bladder cancer.