If you’re concerned about bladder cancer, you’ll likely have questions on topics ranging from bladder cancer symptoms, through detection and diagnosis, to treatment and recovery. The internet is a great source of information, however searching online it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by medical and cancer related terms you’re not familiar with. This can be discouraging and reduce your ability to make confident care decisions.
Everyone deserves access to easy-to-understand medical information, and a good understanding of cancer-related terms will allow you to evaluate your options and communicate with your doctor more effectively.
To help, we’ve have put together a glossary of common medical terms and phrases you might encounter while reading up on bladder cancer.
- Biomarker: A biological substance or chemical that indicates the presence of a disease.
- Bladder cancer grade: Is based on the microscopic appearance of cancer cells and suggests how fast a cancer might grow. Low-grade cancer cells appear similar to normal cells and usually grow slowly, whereas high-grade cancer cells have a very abnormal appearance and tend to grow quickly. High-grade cancers are more likely than low-grade cancers to spread.
- Bladder cancer stage: Bladder cancer staging is the medical process of assessing cancer and determining the extent to which it has grown, developed, and spread. Generally, a lower cancer stage means it is in its earliest or least advanced stages. Stage four cancers are often considered late-stage cancers, as they are more advanced and have spread throughout the body.
- CIS: Carcinoma in situ. Flat, superficial bladder tumors that tend to grow rapidly and recur.
- Clinical trial: A clinical trial is a research study performed to assess the efficiency of a medical test, procedure, drug or other form of treatment. Researchers use clinical trials to ensure effectiveness and patient safety.
- CT scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan is a series of detailed images of the internal body taken from multiple angles. Pictures are made using a computer connected to an X-ray device. Also known as computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan.
- Cystoscopy: Examines the urethra and bladder with a thin, lighted instrument known as a cystoscope inserted into the urethra.
- DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) carries the genetic code for the body and is a double helix molecule composed of four bases — cytosine, thymine, adenine, and guanine.
- Dysuria: Difficult or painful urination.
- Gene: The basic unit of heredity passed from parent to child. Genes are made up of sequences of DNA and are arranged, one after another, at specific locations on chromosomes in the nucleus of cells. They contain information for making specific proteins that lead to the expression of a particular physical characteristic or trait, such as hair color or eye color, or to a particular function in a cell.
- Hematuria: Blood present in urine. Microscopic hematuria means the blood is only visible on a microscopic level, while gross hematuria means blood is present in urine to the naked eye.
- Imaging: An imaging test is a way to let doctors see what’s going on inside your body. These tests send forms of energy (like x-rays, sound waves, radioactive particles, or magnetic fields) through your body. Your body tissues change the energy patterns to make an image or picture. These pictures show how your insides look and work so that health care providers can see changes that may be caused by diseases like cancer.
- Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): IVP is a series of X-rays of the bladder, ureters, and kidneys. IVP uses an injectable dye that concentrates in the urine to outline various structures.
- Lymph node: Bean-shaped structure and part of the body's immune system response. Fibrous substances that travel through the lymphatic fluid. Contains white blood cells to aid the immune system in fighting off diseases and infections. There are hundreds of lymph nodes throughout the body, and all are connected by lymph vessels. Clusters of lymph nodes can be found in the chest, abdomen, neck, underarm, and groin.
- Macrohematuria: Blood in urine visible to the naked eye.
- Metastatic bladder cancer: Metastatic bladder cancer refers to bladder cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, lungs, and other areas. Even if cancer cells are first identified in the lungs, it is still referred to as metastatic bladder cancer if these cells metastasize from the bladder.
- Microhematuria: Blood in urine visible only under a microscope.
- Molecular diagnostic test: A test to identify diseases based on various pieces of genetic information. Combines molecular biology and laboratory testing to investigate human genomes, genes, and the products they encode.
- MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and a strong magnet connected to a computer to obtain detailed images of the body's internal structures. MRIs can show the difference between diseased and normal tissues. MRIs are often used for the spine, brain, inside of bones, and soft tissues of the joints. Also known as nuclear magnetic resonance imaging or NMRI.
- mRNA: Messenger ribonucleic acid. This is similar to DNA. It uses the genetic ‘code’ to direct protein production inside the body.
- Muscle invasive bladder cancer: Muscle invasive bladder cancer, also known as MIBC, is cancer that spreads to the bladder's detrusor muscle. The detrusor muscle is a thick muscle located deep within the bladder wall. Muscle invasive bladder cancer is more likely to metastasize and spread.
- Negative predictive value: Proportion of individuals with a negative test result who are correctly diagnosed.
- Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer/ superficial bladder cancer: Superficial bladder cancer, also known as non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC), affects the surface of the bladder's inside lining. Superficial bladder cancer is the most common stage of bladder cancer and does not affect the muscle wall.
- Oncology: Oncology is a medical branch concerning the prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
- Papillary tumor: A tumor that resembles thin, long, finger-like growth. Papillary tumors grow from the tissue lining the inside of an organ. While these tumors can develop in several parts of the body, they are most common in the bladder, breast, and thyroid.
- Positive predictive value: Proportion of individuals with a positive test result who are correctly diagnosed.
- Prognosis: The likelihood a person will recover from a disease or experience recurrence. The likely outcome a person may expect from a disease.
- Recurrence: If cancer is found after treatment, and after a period of time when the cancer couldn’t be detected, it’s called a cancer recurrence. The recurrent cancer might come back in the same place it first started, or it might come back somewhere else in the body. When cancer spreads to a new part of the body, it’s still named after the part of the body where it started.
- Retrograde pyelogram: An imaging test using X-rays to assess the kidneys, ureters, and bladder.
- Risk factors: Medical risk factors are any trait, action, or thing that increases the risk of a person developing a certain disease. Common risk factors include demographic factors (such as age, gender, and ethnicity), medical history, lifestyle habits, and long term chemical or radiation exposure.
- Sensitivity: Sensitivity describes how well a test can detect a specific disease or condition in people who actually have the disease or condition. No test has 100% sensitivity because some people who have the disease or condition will not be identified by the test (a false-negative test result).
- Specificity: Refers to the percentage of people who test negative for a specific disease among a group of people who do not have the disease. No test is 100% specific because some people who do not have the disease will test positive for it (false positive).
- Transitional cell carcinoma: Also referred to as urothelial cell carcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma is a form of cancer that develops in the lining of the renal pelvis, ureter, and bladder.
- Tumor: A tumor is an abnormal mass that forms when cells begin to grow irregularly and divide more than they normally do or will not die when they should. Tumors can be benign, meaning they are not cancerous, or they can be malignant, meaning they are cancerous. While benign tumors may grow large, they often do not spread to nearby tissues or parts of the body. Malignant tumors have the possibility of spreading to and invading nearby tissues.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound (which may also be referred to as a sonogram) uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of internal organs. Echoes, which are created as sound waves bounce off organs and tissues, produce computer images that provide information on the structure and movement of organs and the blood flow through vessels. An ultrasound does not use radiation or contrast dyes.
- Ureter: The ureter is a tube that urine passes through from the kidney to the bladder.
- Urethra: The tube in which urine is expelled from the body and empties the bladder.
- Urothelial carcinoma: Urothelial carcinoma, also called transitional cell carcinoma, is the most common type of bladder cancer, accounting for approximately 9 out of every 10 cases. This type of cancer starts in the urothelial cells lining the inner surface of the bladder wall. Cancerous urothelial cells form a tumor that can grow into the deeper layers of the bladder wall and spread to nearby lymph nodes and organs. In some instances, cancer cells may break away from the bladder tumor(s) and form new tumors in distant parts of the body. This is called metastatic bladder cancer.
- Urinalysis: A urinalysis is a test of your urine. It's used to detect and manage a wide range of disorders, such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes. A urinalysis involves checking the appearance, concentration and content of urine.
- Urinary tract: The urinary tract includes the ureters, urethra, kidneys, and bladder. These organs produce, store, and discharge urine from the body.
- Urine cytology: Urine cytology is a test that can detect abnormal cells in the urine and can help diagnose urinary tract cancer, specifically bladder cancer.
- Urine-sampling system: A complete system to collect and store your urine sample ready for sending to a laboratory.
- Urologist: A urologist is a physician specializing in diagnosing and treating various urinary system disorders.
- Urothelium: The urinary tract's lining, which includes the bladder, renal pelvis, urethra, and ureters.
If you found this post useful, we invite you to browse our blog for more articles written for cancer patients.
- American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/understanding-your-diagnosis/tests/imaging-radiology-tests-for-cancer.html
- American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/long-term-health-concerns/recurrence/what-is-cancer-recurrence.html
- National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/
- Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/urinalysis/about/pac-20384907