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Special Focus on Bladder Cancer – Part 1: The Status of Bladder Cancer in Ontario

This year we take a deeper look at bladder cancer in Ontario, from providing an overview of who in Ontario develops bladder cancer to examining treatment patterns in the province.

Senior couple sitting together being interviewed

Bladder cancer survivor Malcolm and his wife, Ieva, share their story about adjusting to life after cancer treatment. In this short video, they talk about the long-term effects of Malcolm’s treatment, learning to enjoy life again, and the importance of getting support from your healthcare team.

View their story

What is Bladder Cancer?

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  • Bladder cancer is a cancerous tumour that starts in the cells of the bladder.
  • The bladder is an organ in the pelvis, made up of multiple layers of muscle and connected to the kidneys via the ureters.
  • The kidneys produce urine, which is stored within the bladder.
  • Given the similarity of symptoms between bladder cancer and urinary tract infections an initial misdiagnosis can occur.
  • Smoking is the most important risk factor for bladder cancer.

Bladder Cancer in Ontario

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  • The most common type of bladder cancer in Ontario is urothelial carcinoma, also called transitional cell carcinoma, which makes up more than 90% of all bladder cancers.
  • Bladder cancer may be non-invasive or invasive. Over 70% of all newly diagnosed bladder cancer in Ontario are non-muscle invasive bladder cancers, which has a 60-70% recurrence rate.
  • In 2013, the number of men diagnosed with urothelial carcinoma in Ontario was almost 3.4 times the number of women diagnosed.

Treatment

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  • Bladder cancer is mainly treated with surgery, immunotherapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • In 2016, 90% of bladder cancer patients in Ontario received surgery within their recommended wait time.
  • Bladder cancer had the highest rate of unplanned hospital visits and reoperation rates after surgery.
  • Immunotherapy is often used to treat tumours that are only in the lining of the bladder, but have a higher risk for growing. The most commonly used vaccine is bacillus Calmette-Guérin.
  • Radiation therapy is used in combination with surgery and chemotherapy to treat bladder cancer more effectively.  Radiation may be the main treatment type for those who are unable to have surgery.

Recovery

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  • The five-year age-adjusted relative survival ratio has decreased for both males and females since 1999–2003.
  • There is a need for system-level improvements in diagnosis and follow-up care after treatment.
  • Follow-up care is required to manage any long-term side effects or symptoms after treatment. This includes managing side effects, monitoring individual health and regular tests or exams to ensure that the cancer has not recurred.
  • Recovering from bladder cancer is different for each individual. It is important for patients to have access to the appropriate healthcare service to help improve their quality of life and address the long-term side effects of treatment.