If bladder cancer is diagnosed, the doctor needs to know the stage, or extent, of the disease to plan the best treatment. Staging is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has invaded the bladder wall, whether the disease has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body.
The Spreading of Cancer
There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body:
Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
Through the lymph system.
Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
Through the blood.
Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.
When cancer cells break away from the primary tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another, or secondary tumor, may form. This process is called metastasis
. The secondary, or metastatic
, tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if bladder cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually bladder cancer cells. The disease is metastatic bladder cancer
, not bone cancer.
Stages of Bladder Cancer
These are the main features of each stage of the bladder cancer:
Stage 0 (Carcinoma in situ)
- The cancer cells are found only on the surface of the inner lining of the bladder. The doctor may call this superficial cancer or carcinoma in situ
- The cancer cells are found deep in the inner lining of the bladder. They have not spread to the muscle of the bladder.
- The cancer cells have spread to the muscle of the bladder.
- The cancer cells have spread through the muscular wall of the bladder to the layer of tissue surrounding the bladder. The cancer cells may have spread to the prostate (in men) or to the uterus or vagina (in women).
- The cancer extends to the wall of the abdomen or to the wall of the pelvis. The cancer cells may have spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body far away from the bladder, such as the lungs.
Knowing the stage assists the doctor in determining a prognosis. It also better helps you understand the care and treatment that will be required.