Physician performing minimally invasive bladder cancer surgery.
Bladder cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, especially among people over age 70. Much is now known about the disease’s causes, particularly smoking, offering the potential to reduce the number of new cases in years ahead.
Bladder cancer is usually treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and occasionally radiation. Continued refinements to this “multi-modality care” approach have steadily improved outcomes and allowed a growing number of patients to retain normal or near-normal bladder function following surgery. Innovations in surgery have also brought important quality of life improvements for patients, in terms of shorter recovery times and the ability to retain their sexual function.
Nevertheless, long-term survival rates have improved only slightly since the 1970s, in part because bladder cancer research receives less attention and resources than many other common cancers. In fact, no new drugs have been approved specifically for bladder cancer in more than 20 years. Yet, researchers are hopeful that current clinical trials of targeted drugs will result in new, more effective treatment options for patients with the disease.