Small cell bladder cancer is a rare type of bladder cancer. It’s more aggressive than other types of bladder cancer and those with it have a poorer outlook. Treatment can involve surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
There are also several rarer types of bladder cancer as well. One of these is small cell bladder cancer. Researchers estimate that it makes up only
In this article, we take a closer look at small cell bladder cancer, including the outlook for people with this type of cancer and how it’s diagnosed and treated.
Small cell bladder cancer is a rare type of bladder cancer. It forms in neuroendocrine cells, which are nerve-like cells that release hormones in response to signaling from your nervous system.
Compared with other types of bladder cancers, small cell bladder cancer is very aggressive. That means that it typically grows and spreads more quickly.
Other bladder cancers
There are also other types of bladder cancer:
- Urothelial carcinoma: Urothelial carcinoma accounts for
more than 90%of bladder cancers. It starts in urothelial cells, which line your bladder and other parts of your urinary tract (kidneys, ureter, bladder, urethra).
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma makes up
1% to 2%of bladder cancers and starts in the cells in your bladder lining. It often happens in response to bladder irritation or inflammation.
- Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma makes up
about 1%of bladder cancers and starts in mucus-producing cells.
- Sarcoma: Sarcoma begins in your bladder muscle cells and is very rare.
The main symptom of small cell bladder cancer is blood in your urine. Other potential symptoms include:
- needing to urinate more often than normal
- only being able to urinate small amounts
- pain while urinating
- getting up frequently at night to urinate
These symptoms can all be caused by more common conditions, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI). But it’s still important to see a doctor or healthcare professional for them, especially if they’re lasting or happen frequently.
Symptoms of small cell bladder cancer having spread outside of your bladder can be:
Cancer starts due to DNA changes that cause cells to grow and divide out of control. These can be changes that are inherited from your parents or changes that happen during your life due to lifestyle and environmental factors.
Like other types of bladder cancer, small cell bladder cancer is more common in people assigned male at birth and in white individuals. The reasons for this are currently unknown.
- a family history of bladder cancer
- certain genetic changes associated with bladder cancer
- exposure to arsenic in drinking water
- workplace exposures to certain chemicals
- use of the herbal supplement Aristolochia fangchi
- conditions that cause chronic bladder irritation, such as UTIs, kidney stones, and urinary catheters
- previous radiation therapy or chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide
The diagnostic process starts with a doctor taking your medical history and doing a physical exam. If they suspect that you may have bladder cancer, they’ll order additional tests, such as:
- urine cytology, which looks for cancer cells in your urine
- urine culture to check for a UTI
- cystoscopy, which uses a thin tube with a lens and light to look inside of your bladder for signs of cancer
- imaging of your urinary tract, such as by using
- biopsy, which can confirm your diagnosis of small cell bladder cancer and help to further characterize the cancer
If you receive a diagnosis of small cell bladder cancer, a doctor will also do additional tests to see if the cancer has metastasized. These involve imaging and can include:
Cystectomy, or surgical removal of your bladder, is the
- Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy happens before surgery to help shrink a tumor.
- Adjuvant chemotherapy: Adjuvant chemotherapy occurs after surgery to help kill any remaining cancer cells.
Not everyone with small cell bladder cancer may be eligible for surgery. These individuals may receive chemotherapy, radiation, or both. It’s
Small cell bladder cancer is an aggressive type of bladder cancer. In many people, the cancer has already metastasized when they receive a diagnosis. As such, the outlook for people with this type of bladder cancer is generally poorer than it is for those with other types of bladder cancer.
Researchers looked at how factors like age, cancer stage, and tumor grade affected survival. They found that the only significant indicator for improved survival was the absence of spread to people’s lymph nodes or metastasis.
Small cell bladder cancer is a very rare but aggressive type of bladder cancer. Its symptoms are similar to other types of bladder cancer and can include blood in your urine, frequent urination, and painful urination.
Small cell bladder cancer grows and spreads quickly, meaning the outlook for people with it is poor. But your outlook can be improved when your receive a diagnosis of this cancer early and get it treated aggressively.
The symptoms of small cell bladder cancer can be similar to more common conditions like UTIs. Always see a doctor if you have concerning urinary symptoms that are lasting or happen frequently.