Bladder Cancer and Incontinence

Jay Motola Health Pro
  • Tumors of the urinary bladder can often result in changes of urinary function. The urinary bladder serves two main purposes: urinary storage and urinary emptying. Any disease of the bladder can affect these processes.


    When a bladder tumor is present, patients may notice blood in the urine. This may often be one of the first signs that cancer of the urinary tract is present. If you ever see blood in your urine, consult an urologist immediately. Too often patients delay this visit and this is the group of people who may be diagnosed with advanced stage cancer.


    A tumor can result in many different effects on the bladder. A tumor — like any other foreign matter in the bladder — can result in irritability of the bladder. Irritability of the bladder is translated into a sensation of urgency or urinary frequency. Patients will experience a need to run to the bathroom very quickly once they experience that urge. Otherwise, if they cannot get there in time, this can result in urinary urge incontinence.

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    The tumor itself can also cause stimulation. The bladder is a muscle and the tumor can cause the muscle to become stimulated. The result will be a stimulus that you need to go to the bathroom, sometimes very frequently. Most of the time this sensation will occur due to inappropriate bladder volume, triggering "overactive bladder" symptoms.


    Many times urologists will see patients in their office who are being treated for overactive bladder; however, when they are evaluated, they are found to have bladder cancer. An estimated 20 percent of people treated for overactive bladder who have blood in their urine may be found to have bladder cancer. However, it’s important to note that studies and literature pinpointing the exact incidences of bladder cancer in incontinence patients is extremely limited.


    A very large tumor that is situated near the opening of the bladder can result in an obstruction of the bladder. Tumors that are near the junction of the bladder and the urethra can cause a blockage to the flow of urine and patients may complain of a decrease in their flow, or perhaps an intermittency to their urinary stream.  Uncommon tumors that are bulky and located on the anatomic area of the bladder, known as the trigone, can also interfere with the contractile mechanism of the bladder, resulting in retention of urine.


    Bladder cancer is a disease that can have very severe long-term effects for the patients. In its earliest stages, it can be very effectively treated and patient outcomes tend to be excellent long term.  In advanced cases, the bladder needs to be removed surgically and a reconstruction of the lower urinary tract needs to occur. 


    Patients need to listen to their bodies. What may seem like a minor bothersome symptom —urinary frequency, urgency, or urge incontinence — may be a sign that a potentially life-threatening condition such as bladder cancer may be present. Be aware of changes in your urinary function and if they occur, seek a consultation with an urologist. 

Published On: January 30, 2014