In 2018, there were 3,558 new cases of bladder cancer in New Zealand and Australia, and over 1,697 deaths. Globally bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer among men, and tenth overall.
Can bladder cancer be cured? Bladder cancer is usually treatable when caught at an early stage but more challenging to address when found later. Recurrence also poses a risk, even with early-stage tumours, so regular surveillance is essential following treatment or surgery.
What Affects Survival Rate and What Treatment Options Are Available?
After diagnosing bladder cancer, your doctor will try to determine if it has advanced and if it has, how far. Doctors use a staging process to describe how far the tumour has penetrated the surrounding tissue and muscle, and to what extent it has spread to other parts of the body or metastasised. The staging process helps the doctor decide on the best way to treat it.
The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system is the most widely used staging system for bladder cancer. It relies on three critical factors:
- T: The letter "T" stands for "tumour" and describes the degree to which the tumour has grown through the wall of your bladder and into neighbouring tissue and muscles.
- N: The letter "N" stands for "nodes" and notes if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are groups of immune system cells about the size of beans. When cancer starts to spread, it frequently spreads to the lymph nodes nearest the bladder first.
- M: The letter "M" stands for "metastasised," which means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs or other lymph nodes farther from the bladder.
The American Cancer Society provides a detailed breakdown of the TNM system. Letters or numbers after T, N and M offer more detail related to the progression of the cancer.
Bladder Cancer Grade
Bladder cancer tumours can be classified further based on the way cancer cells look when viewed through a microscope, given this then dictates how they behave. The appearance of the cells contributes to "tumour grade" classification. Bladder cancer can be either high grade or low grade, though a three grade numbering system is often used to provide more detail.
- High-grade bladder tumour: A type of tumour with abnormal-looking cells and tissue. High-grade tumours grow more aggressively than low-grade tumours and have a higher chance of spreading to the bladder's muscular wall and other organs and tissues.
- Low-grade bladder tumour: A type of tumour with cells closer in organisation and appearance to healthy cells. They typically grow more gradually and are less likely to invade the bladder's muscular wall than high-grade tumours.
Survival Rates for Bladder Cancer
Survival rates are based on real-world case data and illustrate the percentage of individuals with the same stage and type of cancer who are typically still alive after a specific length of time (often five years) after receiving a diagnosis. It’s important to understand that survival rates are relative in that they compare the number of people with the same type and stage of cancer to the number of people in the overall population. A particular stage of bladder cancer, for example, may have a 90% five-year relative survival rate. The 90% figure comes from dividing the percentage of people with cancer who are alive after five years by the percentage of people without the disease who are also alive after five years.
Understanding the typical survival rates for the stage of cancer you are diagnosed with can help you make more informed decisions around treatment. It's recommended you consult your doctor for more information.
The five-year relative survival rates for all bladder cancer stages is 77%. Breaking the five-year survival rates down by stage gives you a more detailed picture and illustrates why tracking stage is useful. Between 2008 and 2014, the five-year relative survival rates were:
- 95% (stage 0/in situ)
- 69% (stage I, stage II/localised)
- 35% (stage III/IVa/regional)
- 5% (stage IVb/distant)
- 47% (unknown/unstaged)
How to Treat Bladder Cancer
The bladder cancer treatment your doctor recommends depends on several factors, including:
- The type of cancer
- The stage of cancer
- The grade of cancer
- Your treatment preferences
- Your overall health
Bladder cancer treatment options may include:
- Intravesical chemotherapy: meaning chemotherapy in the bladder, to treat tumours confined to the bladder lining with a high risk of progression or recurrence.
- Systemic chemotherapy: or chemotherapy to the entire body, to increase the chance of a cure after bladder removal surgery, or as a primary treatment where surgery isn't an option.
- Radiation therapy: for destroying cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used as the primary treatment to target localised cancer cells option when surgery isn't an option.
- Immunotherapy: to trigger the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.
- Surgery: is part of the treatment for most bladder cancers. The type and extent of the surgery depend on the stage of cancer and other factors such as the longer-term side effects of the procedure.
Your doctor may combine treatment approaches.
Even early-stage bladder cancers have a likelihood of returning, so after treatment, you'll want to continue to see your doctor for follow-up appointments to monitor for recurrence. The types of tests and the frequency of testing depend on the type of cancer and your treatment. Your doctor will work with you to put together an appropriate follow-up plan.
Generally, doctors recommend a cystoscopy to examine the inside of your bladder and urethra every three to six months for several years after bladder cancer treatment. If several years of surveillance have gone by, and no cancer recurrence was detected, you might only need a cystoscopy once a year. Your doctor might recommend additional testing at regular intervals, as well.
Take Charge of Your Health With Cxbladder
Early detection saves lives and is a crucial factor when it comes to the treatment of bladder cancer. Cxbladder is a clinically proven cutting-edge genomic urine test that quickly and accurately detects or rules out bladder cancer in patients presenting with blood in the urine (or haematuria) and those being monitored for recurrence. The test works at a molecular level, measuring five biomarker genes to detect the presence or absence of bladder cancer.
Cxbladder is discreet, quick, non-invasive and painless, typically giving you meaningful results within five working days. It comes as a suite of test options, each optimised for a different point in the patient journey.
- Triage: Incorporates known bladder cancer risk factors to help rapidly rule out the disease.
- Detect: Designed to work alongside other tests to improve overall detection accuracy.
- Monitor: Optimised for bladder cancer surveillance, reducing the need for further invasive tests
Cxbladder gives you peace of mind and will help your doctor make informed treatment decisions. Speak to your general practitioner or urologist to learn more about Cxbladder and which test might be right for you. You can also contact our Customer Service Team directly.