6 Surprising Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

9 Dec 2019 Blog

Having problems with erections from time to time is common and shouldn’t be cause for concern. However, if these problems become progressively worse or happen routinely with sex, you may want to speak with your doctor about erectile dysfunction (ED). Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is the inability to develop and maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. According to the Urology Care Foundation, ED affects as many as 30 million men.

Although increasing age is the biggest contributing factor, here are six other erectile dysfunction risk factors that may surprise you:

  1. You have anxiety at work. Men who work in an environment that causes anxiety and/or depression are more likely to suffer from ED. Erections require the nervous system to trigger them, so if the system is depressed, it can be difficult to trigger and maintain an erection.
  2. You have diabetes. ED prevalence in men with diabetes ranges from 35-75% and occurs 10-15 years earlier than men without diabetes. Irregular blood sugar can damage the nerves and blood vessels that allow blood flow in the penis.
  3. You have bad oral hygiene. Research shows that men who suffer from chronic periodontitis are more likely to suffer from ED. Periodontitis is often associated with oral inflammation, which decreases nitric acid production and blood flow.
  4. You regularly add salt to food. High blood pressure and cholesterol are often associated with high-sodium intake, which restricts blood flow. Restricting blood flow to the penis may be a contributing cause of ED.
  5. You enjoy riding a bike. Bike riding can desensitize and damage the nerves in the pelvic floor, which can make it difficult for men to get an erection. Scale back on the number of miles you ride on your bike each week and focus on other kinds of exercise if ED is a problem for you.
  6. You’re trying to reverse hair loss. Certain medications for hair loss, such as Propecia and Avodart, can cause ED because they reduce the amount of dihydrotestosterone in the blood.

Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction. There are many treatment options available to improve your quality of life.

Learn more about Erectile Dysfunction >

New Jersey Urology Partners with Urology Care Alliance

2 Dec 2019 News

The partnership creates largest urology network in the United States

Bloomfield, NJ: New Jersey Urology (“NJU”), the leading urology service provider in New Jersey, and Urology Management Associates (“UMA”) are pleased to announce a partnership with Urology Care Alliance (“UCA”), effective December 1, 2019.

The partnership creates the largest urology group in the tri-state area, with 155 providers in 60 locations, including six cancer treatment centers. Combined, the organizations will have more robust resources for patients and employees alike and be able to better serve patients in central New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. UCA physicians will continue to provide care in their existing offices serving Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Somerset Counties in New Jersey, and Bucks County in Pennsylvania.

“We are proud to welcome Urology Care Alliance (UCA) to the NJU family,” Scott Ciccarelli, Chief Executive Officer at UMA, said. “Their innovative practices, centralized locations, and best-in-class urology care increases our ability to provide outstanding patient care. With the addition of UCA’s treatment center, NJU now has six state-of-the-art cancer treatment centers across the state. Our rapid growth validates NJU as a leader in comprehensive urologic services that enables outstanding patient outcomes and facilitates practice growth.”

UCA President Dr. Gary Karlin said, “Urology Care Alliance is looking forward to joining New Jersey Urology. This merger will allow us to continue to offer the finest urologic patient care and expand our services in this ever-changing field of urological medicine.”

UCA CEO Alan Plotkin added, “Joining forces with New Jersey Urology is a great opportunity to continue to grow our practice and to remain a strong urologic and cancer treatment presence in central New Jersey and Bucks County, Pennsylvania.”

The Bloom Organization served as buy-side advisor to UMA. Henry Bloom, founder of The Bloom Organization, said, “We are pleased to be able to support the growth of NJU and UMA and look forward to continuing to build the leading platform in the urology industry.”

NJU welcomes the UCA physicians: Saad Antoun, MD; Alex Arnouk, MD; Akwasi Boateng, MD; Phillip Brackin Jr., MD; Doh Cha, MD; Michael Cohen, MD; William Ding, MD; Jarad Fingerman, DO; Marc Feder, MD; Russell Freid, MD; Drew Hecht, DO; Gary Karlin, MD; Alex Kirshenbaum, MD; David Koota, MD; Steven Orland, MD; Matthew Pagano, MD; Ravi Rajan, MD; Steven Richards, MD; Emad Rizkala, MD; Christopher Schaefer, DO; Marc Schwarzman, MD; Troy Sukkarieh, MD; Deep Trivedi, MD; John Watson, MD; Akira Yamamoto, MD; Vitaly Zholudev, MD.


About Urology Management Associates:

Urology Management Associates was formed in August 2018 to provide administrative services to New Jersey Urology. The establishment of UMA enables NJU to continue to focus on providing world-class urology services while remaining a physician-led organization. UMA plans to partner with additional urology groups to provide administrative practice management services initially in the greater New York metropolitan area with long-term plans to expand nationally.

About The Bloom Organization:

Bloom has been advising physicians on transactions since 1990. Founded and lead by Mr. Henry Bloom, the Company is based in Aventura, FL and serves clients nationwide. Bloom’s investment banking expertise is in the healthcare services sector.

5 Common Vasectomy Myths Debunked by Urologists

25 Nov 2019 Blog

According to the Urology Care Foundation, more than 500,000 men in the U.S. choose vasectomy for birth control each year. But is it right for you? Because it’s a permanent form of birth control, many men have questions or concerns before having a vasectomy. This is normal and to be expected. To help you make an informed decision, our urologists are debunking some common vasectomy myths:

Myth: Vasectomy is a risky surgery.

Truth: A vasectomy is a safe and effective minor surgery that is usually performed in your doctor’s office. However, all surgeries have risks. After a vasectomy procedure, mild discomfort, bruising, and swelling is normal. Most men recover within one to two weeks.

Myth: Vasectomy can always be reversed.

Truth: While many men are good candidates for a vasectomy reversal procedure, only about half of these procedures are successful. The tube that the sperm passes through, called the vas deferens, is reconnected during a vasectomy reversal. It is a more complicated surgery because there are different ways to reconnect the vas deferens. Because there is no guarantee that a vasectomy reversal will be successful, it is important to be sure that you want to get a vasectomy in the first place.

Myth: You’ll lose sexual function.

Truth: A vasectomy does not hinder your sex life as the production of testosterone is not affected. The procedure blocks sperm but does not reduce the amount of semen produced, so there is no noticeable difference when you ejaculate.

Myth: Vasectomy is 100% effective right away.

Truth: It can take two to three months following a vasectomy to ensure there is no live sperm. A backup form of birth control should be used during this time. Only 1 to 2 women out of 1,000 will get pregnant in the year following their partner’s vasectomy.

Have other questions about vasectomies and vasectomy reversals?

If you have questions about getting a vasectomy, contact your local NJU office to schedule a consultation with a urology specialist.

Learn more about Men’s Health services at NJU >

NJ Monthly Top Doctors 2019

NJU Physicians Selected as New Jersey Monthly 2019 Top Doctors

We’re proud to announce that 12 New Jersey Urology physicians have been honored as 2019 Jersey Choice Top Doctors by New Jersey Monthly Magazine.

More than 25,000 New Jersey–based doctors were invited to recommend the physicians they would choose to treat their own family members.

2019 Jersey Choice Top Doctors in Urology:

See New Jersey Monthly’s complete list here >

Pelvic Floor Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

11 Nov 2019 Blog

According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly a quarter of U.S. women are affected by a pelvic floor disorder. Pelvic floor disorders are a result of weakened or injured muscles and connective tissue in the pelvic cavity that may cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms making physical activity difficult and sexual intercourse painful.

What is the pelvic floor? What does it do?

The pelvic floor—which men and women both have—is a hammock-shaped group of muscles, connective tissues, and nerves that support the organs and help them function. Both men and women have a:

  • Bladder
  • Bowel
  • Rectum

Men also possess a prostate, whereas women possess a uterus and a vagina. These organs are also a part of the pelvic floor, which extends between the tailbone, pubic bone and hip bone.

What is a pelvic floor disorder?

A pelvic floor disorder refers to a dysfunction of any part of the pelvic floor, resulting in conditions such as:

  • Constipation, difficulties with emptying the bowels
  • Fecal incontinence, an inability to control bowel movements
  • Pain during intercourse or vaginal penetration
  • Pelvic organ prolapse, a weakness in the muscles that causes the organs to shift into the vaginal canal space
  • Urinary incontinence, a loss of control in managing the flow of urine

These conditions occur when the muscles become weakened or the connective tissue tears, typically due to trauma to the pelvic area, childbirth or natural deterioration with age. Genetics, excess weight (which places extra pressure on the pelvic floor) and lifestyle are also thought to play a role, as well as a variety of health issues such as:

  • Diabetes, which may impact how well the pelvic floor muscles function
  • Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disease of the nervous system that affects nerves and muscle movement
  • Stroke, which can damage the part of the brain that controls bladder/bowel movement or include a medication regimen that causes incontinence as a side effect
  • Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal—typically in the neck or low back—that places pressure on the spinal cord or related nerves, potentially resulting in loss of bladder or bowel control

Symptoms can vary depending on which part of the pelvic floor is affected, but can include:

  • A feeling of needing to constantly have a bowel movement or a feeling of not completely emptying after a bowel movement
  • Any consistent pain in the pelvis, rectum or genital area, especially during intercourse
  • Painful or frequent urination
  • Pressure sensation in the vagina, such as the feeling that you are sitting on something or is protruding from the vagina
  • Straining or having to shift position in order to complete a bowel movement or while trying to empty the bladder

Although pelvic floor disorders may sound scary, they’re a fairly common issue, especially in women. In fact, according to one study, one-quarter of adult women in the U.S. report having at least one of these disorders.

What kind of doctor should I see for a pelvic floor disorder?

You can certainly speak to your OB/GYN or primary care provider (PCP) about the issues you are experiencing, but your best bet is to be seen by a urogynecologist or a urologist who specializes in pelvic floor disorders.

What is a urogynecologist?

A urogynecologist is a urologist or OB/GYN who opts to undergo highly-specific subspecialty training for conditions that impact the pelvic floor. This includes completing a fellowship—additional training after completing a residency program—that focuses on surgical and nonsurgical care of non-cancerous gynecologic issues.

When should I seek medical help for my pelvic floor disorder symptoms?

We understand that these issues can be uncomfortable to talk about, but they are common problems that can be medically managed with the right care. There is no reason to compromise your quality of life when there are plenty of treatment options available. Reach out to your PCP or OB/GYN for a urogynecologist recommendation.

At New Jersey Urology, we’re proud to have urogynecologists on staff to help patients living with these issues. Together, they offer years of combined experience in providing patients relief from pelvic floor disorders utilizing the latest techniques the industry has to offer, both surgical and nonsurgical, in a comfortable environment. This can include everything from specialized exercises (pelvic floor therapy) to a minimally invasive surgical repair of the pelvic floor.

Discover the difference in care for your pelvic floor disorder symptoms. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our urogynecologists, contact us today.

What Happens to Ejaculation As Men Age?

4 Nov 2019 Blog

There is little written on ejaculatory issues aside from timing problems (premature and delayed ejaculation) and hematospermia (blood in the semen). However, not a day goes by in my urology practice where I do not see at least several patients who complain about declining ejaculation function.

What does the word ejaculation mean?

Ejaculation derives from ex, meaning out + jaculari, meaning to throw, shoot, hurl, cast.

Trivia: You do not need an erection to ejaculate and achieve an orgasm. A limp penis cannot penetrate, but is very capable of ejaculation and orgasm. 

What happens to ejaculations as we age?

Ejaculation and orgasm often become less intense, with diminished force, trajectory and volume. What was once an intense climax with a substantial volume of semen that could be forcefully ejaculated gives way to a lackluster experience with a small volume of semen weakly dribbled out the penis. 

So what’s the big deal?

Men don’t like meager, lackadaisical-quality ejaculations and orgasms. Sex is important to many of us and getting a good quality rigid erection is foremost, but the culmination—ejaculation and orgasm—is equally vital. We may be 40 or 50 years old, but we still want to point and shoot like we did when we were 20. As the word origin indicates, we want to be able to shoot out, hurl or cast like an Olympian and we want that intensely pleasurable feeling of yesteryear.

The science of ejaculation

Sexual climax consists of three phases—emission, ejaculation, and orgasm. When the intensity and duration of sexual stimulation surpasses a threshold, emission occurs, in which secretions from the prostate gland, seminal vesicles, epididymis, and vas deferens are deposited into the urethra within the prostate gland. During ejaculation the pelvic floor muscles contract rhythmically, sending wave-like contractions rippling down the urethra to forcibly propel the semen in a pulsating and explosive eruption. Orgasm is the intense emotional excitement that accompanies the physical act of ejaculation.  

Big head versus little head

Ejaculation is an event that takes place in the penis; orgasm occurs in the brain.

The process of emission and ejaculation is actually a very complex and highly coordinated neurological event involving several specific centers in the brain (amygdala, thalamus and other areas), spinal cord and peripheral nervous system.

What makes up the love juices?

Less than 5% of the volume of semen is actually sperm and the other 95+% is a cocktail of genital juices that provides nourishment, support and safekeeping for sperm. 70% of the volume comes from the seminal vesicles, which secrete a thick, viscous fluid and 25% from the prostate gland, which produces a milky-white fluid. A negligible amount is from the bulbo-urethral glands, which release a clear viscous fluid (pre-come) that has a lubrication function. 

What’s normal volume?

The average ejaculate volume is 2-5 cc (one teaspoon is the equivalent of 5 cc).  While a huge ejaculatory load sounds like a good thing, in reality it can cause infertility. The sperm can literally “drown” in the excessive seminal fluid. 

Why does the seminal tank dry with aging?

As men get older, there are changes in the reproductive organs, particularly the prostate gland, one of the few organs in the body that enlarges with age.

The aging prostate and seminal vesicles produce less fluid; additionally the ducts that drain the genital fluids can become clogged. In many ways, the changes in ejaculation parallel the changes in urination experienced by the aging male. Certain medications that are used to treat prostate enlargement profoundly affect ejaculatory volume. Additionally, the pelvic floor muscles—which play a vital role in ejaculation—weaken with aging. 

What about the pelvic floor muscles?

The pelvic floor muscles play a key role in ejaculation. The bulbocavernosus muscle (BC) is the motor of ejaculation, that which supplies the “horsepower.” The BC surrounds the inner, deepest portion of the urinary channel. It is a compressor muscle that during sex engorges the spongy erection chamber that surrounds the urethra and engorges the head of penis. At the time of climax, the BC expels semen by virtue of its strong rhythmic contractions, allowing ejaculation to occur and contributing to orgasm.

A weakened BC muscle may result in semen dribbling with diminished force or trajectory, whereas a strong BC can generate powerful contractions that can forcibly ejaculate semen at the time of climax.

How to get the juices flowing again?

Pelvic floor muscle training can be a useful tool to improve ejaculation. The stronger the BC, the higher the ejaculatory horsepower and the better the capacity for engorgement of the erection chamber that envelopes the urethra, resulting in optimized urethral pressurization and ejaculation. The intensified ejaculation resulting from a robust BC can enhance the orgasm that accompanies the physical act of ejaculation.

Written by Dr. Andrew Siegel

How To Use Your Pelvic Floor Muscles to Overcome Overactive Bladder

28 Oct 2019 Blog

What is overactive bladder?

Overactive Bladder (OAB) is defined as urinary urgency (the sudden and urgent desire to urinate) and frequency (urinating too often, which can be during both awake and sleep hours), with or without urgency incontinence (urinary leakage associated with the urgent desire to urinate). It’s often due to involuntary contractions of the urinary bladder in which the bladder squeezes without its owner’s permission. Although it can occur without provocation, it’s commonly triggered by positional changes such as going from sitting to standing, exposure to running water, approaching a bathroom, and when placing the key in the door to one’s home.

The American Urological Association guidelines for OAB recommend pelvic floor muscle (PFM) training as first-line therapy for OAB. Voluntary PFM contractions can effectively inhibit involuntary bladder contractions and squelch the urgency and urgency incontinence.

How does the bladder work?

In order to effectively tap into the powers of the pelvic floor, a basic understanding of bladder function is necessary. During urine storage, the bladder muscle is in a relaxed, non-contracting state, and the urinary sphincters – responsible for urinary control – are engaged (contracted). During urine emptying, the bladder muscle contracts and the sphincter muscles relax synchronously.

This “antagonistic” relationship between the bladder muscle and the PFMs can be used to the advantage of those suffering with OAB. Because people with OAB often have bladders that contract involuntarily causing the symptoms of urgency and frequency, a means of getting the bladder to relax is to intentionally engage the PFMs to benefit from the reflex relaxation of the bladder that occurs with voluntary contraction of the PFMs.

The PFM-Bladder Reflex

This is a very useful and practical reflex that you can easily access. This reflex is unique because it can be engaged voluntarily and because it results in the relaxation of a muscle as opposed to its contraction. Anyone who has ever experienced an urgent desire to urinate or move one’s bowels will find this reflex of great practical use. When the reflex is deployed, it will result in relaxation of both the urinary bladder and rectum and a quieting down of the urgency.

How to Use the PFM-Bladder Reflex To Overcome OAB

When you feel the sudden and urgent desire to urinate, pulse the PFMs five times, briefly but intensely. When the PFM are so deployed, the bladder muscle reflexively relaxes and the feeling of intense urgency should disappear. Likewise, when the PFMs are so deployed, the rectum relaxes and the feeling of intense bowel urgency should diminish. This reflex is a keeper when you are stuck in traffic and have no access to a toilet!

PFM training helps stimulate the inhibitory reflex between the PFMs and the bladder muscle. A PFM training program will stimulate your awareness of the PFMs and enable you to isolate them and increase their strength, tone, and endurance. The inhibitory reflex will become more robust and you’ll develop an enhanced ability to counteract urgency, frequency and urgency incontinence. Urgency can often be diminished and the urgency incontinence can often be abolished.

Getting beyond inhibiting urgency after it occurs is preventing it from occurring in the first place.  In order to do so, it’s important to recognize the specific triggers that induce the urgency, frequency or incontinence: hand washing, key in the door, rising from sitting, running water, entering the shower, cold or rainy weather, etc.  Prior to exposure to a trigger, rapid flexes of the PFM can preempt the involuntary bladder contraction before it has a chance to occur.

Bottom Line: There are many treatments available for OAB, including decreasing your fluid and caffeine intake, bladder retraining, oral medications, Botox injections into the bladder and neurostimulation. As a first-line approach, tap into the powers of your PFM and harness the natural reflex in which involuntary bladder contractions can be inhibited or prevented by engaging your PFM.

Written by Dr. Andrew Siegel

Peyronie’s Disease: Causes and Treatment Options

21 Oct 2019 Blog

Peyronie’s Disease is an inflammatory condition of the penis that causes penile curvature and an uncomfortable or painful erection that can dramatically interfere with one’s sexual health. It’s not uncommon, with more than 120,000 cases per year in the USA (only a small fraction of cases are actually treated.) Although it can manifest at any age, it most commonly occurs in 50-60 year olds.

What causes Peyronie’s Disease?

Essentially, Peyronie’s Disease is caused by scar tissue in a bad location, which sabotages the ability to obtain a straight and rigid erection. It causes fibrous, inelastic “plaques” of the sheath surrounding the erectile chambers within the penis, resulting in deformities of the penis during erections. It can also cause a hard lump or lumps, shortening, curvature and bending, narrowing, and/or a visual indentation of the penis described as an hourglass deformity. These deformities lead result in painful, less rigid erections that can dramatically interfere with one’s sexual and psychological health.

The underlying cause of Peyronie’s is unclear, but is suspected to be penile trauma—perhaps associated with excessive bending and buckling from sexual intercourse—that activates an abnormal scarring process. The acute phase is characterized by painful erections and an evolving scar, curvature and deformity. The chronic phase typically occurs up to 18 months after initial onset and is characterized by resolution of pain and inflammation, stabilization of the curvature and deformity, and possible erectile dysfunction.

What are the side effects of Peyronie’s Disease?

Penile pain, curvature, and poor expansion of the erectile cylinders contribute to difficulty in having a functional and anatomically correct rigid erection suitable for intercourse. The curvature can range from a very minor, barely noticeable deviation to a deformity that requires “acrobatics” to achieve vaginal penetration, to an erection that is so angulated that intercourse is impossible. The angulation can occur in any direction and sometimes involves more than one angle, depending on the number, location and extent of the scarring. Although the scarring is physical, it often has psychological ramifications, causing anxiety and depression.

Peyronie’s regresses in about 15% of men, progresses in 40% of untreated men, and remains stable in 45% of men. Many men become very self-conscious about the appearance of their penis and the limitations it causes, and they may avoid sex entirely.

What are the treatment options for Peyronie’s Disease?

Treatment options include:

  • Oral medications
  • Topical agents
  • Injections into the scar tissue
  • Shock wave therapy
  • Surgery

Upon initial diagnosis, most men are started on oral Vitamin E, 400 IU daily, as this has the potential to soften the scar tissue causing the plaque. Many of the treatments listed above are not particularly effective because scar tissue is a challenging problem.

If there is an unsatisfactory response to conservative treatment options, a penile implant may be appropriate. This can manage the dual problems of erectile dysfunction and penile angulation. If erections are adequate, but angulation precludes intercourse, options include procedures that attempt to counteract the curvature by doing a nip and tuck opposite the plaque in an effort to make expansion more symmetrical. Although this technique is effective in improving the angulation, it does so at the cost of penile shortening. Other more complex procedures involve incising or removing the scar tissue and using grafting material to replace the tissue defect.

Written by Dr. Andrew Siegel 

Hydrocele: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Hydrocele: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

14 Oct 2019 Blog

What is a hydrocele?

A hydrocele is an accumulation of fluid within the sac that surrounds the testicle, resulting in ballooning and enlargement of the scrotum. It can vary in size from just slightly bigger than the actual testes to larger than a cantaloupe.

Each testicle is surrounded by a thin sac known as the tunica vaginalis. The tunica vaginalis has an inner layer and an outer layer. There is a small amount of fluid present between these two layers that serves as lubrication so the testes can rotate and move freely within the scrotum. The inner layer is responsible for manufacturing this fluid, and the outer layer is responsible for its reabsorption.

A hydrocele is a disorder of the production and reabsorption. For example, when the outer layer of the tunica vaginalis is unable to reabsorb all of the fluid that is produced by the inner layer, the fluid will gradually accumulate. Hydroceles may also result from trauma, infections, tumors or operations such as a hernia and varicocele repairs. The fluid content of most hydroceles is straw-colored and odorless.

How is a hydrocele diagnosed?

They are evaluated by physical examination and are often further characterized by an ultrasound of the scrotum, allowing for a detailed examination of the underlying testicle that often cannot be provided by physical examination because the size of the hydrocele.

How is a hydrocele treated?

Most small and moderate-sized hydroceles that are minimally symptomatic can be managed by periodic checkups. If a hydrocele progresses to the point where it causes discomfort, pain, tightness, deformity, or embarrassment, an option is to pass a needle into the hydrocele sac and drain the fluid, but this is most often just a temporary fix, as the root cause is unchanged and the fluid generally will re-accumulate.

The most definitive means of management is a relatively simple outpatient surgical procedure called a “hydrocele repair” or “hydrocelectomy.” The incision is typically made through the midline “seam” of the scrotum. The involved testicle and surrounding hydrocele sac are delivered through the incision, the sac is opened, the fluid is drained, and generally the sac is excised and oversewn. Alternatively, the opened sac is turned back on itself and sewn to itself.  Either method results in exposing the testes to the scrotal wall (as opposed to the outer layer of the tunica), which functions to resorb the fluid produced by the inner layer of the tunica. This procedure is highly successful.

Written by Dr. Andrew Siegel

Bladder Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Bladder Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

7 Oct 2019 Blog

In the United States, the prevalence of bladder cancer has increased greatly over the last few decades, with more than 60,000 new cases diagnosed annually. It occurs more frequently in men than in women, and is usually diagnosed in adults over 60 years old. When bladder cancer is diagnosed and treated in the early stages, the chances of survival are excellent.

More than 90% of newly diagnosed bladder cancers are urothelial cell carcinomas (cancers originating from the unique lining of the urinary tract). Most patients have superficial cancer that involves the very inner layers of the bladder wall. Less than one fourth have invasive disease that involves the deeper layers of the bladder wall, and less than 5% present with metastatic disease, defined as spread beyond the confines of the bladder.

What causes bladder cancer?

Cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) are most often responsible for bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is highly associated with tobacco smoking. Even if one stopped smoking years ago, the risk is related to the quantity of tobacco smoked over the years. The carcinogens that are present in tobacco are absorbed through the lungs, into the bloodstream, and are filtered through the kidneys directly into the bladder, where their prolonged contact time with the lining of the bladder leads to cancerous changes.

Certain occupations put people at a greater risk for bladder cancer because of exposure to chemicals, including: hairdressers, painters, machinists, printers, and those who work with dyes, textiles, rubber, leather, and petrochemicals.

What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer most commonly manifests with blood in the urine, either visible or microscopic (seen only under microscopic magnification). It may also cause irritative lower urinary tract symptoms including urgency, frequency, discomfort with urinating, and urinary leakage.

How is bladder cancer diagnosed?

The evaluation for blood in the urine includes imaging, cytology, and cystoscopy.

  • Imaging tests are means of visualizing the anatomy of the urinary tract, typically through ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Cytology is a microscopic inspection of a urine sample by a pathologist for the presence of abnormal or cancerous cells that slough off the lining of the bladder, similar to a Pap smear done to screen for cervical cancer.
  • Cystoscopy is a visual inspection of the entire lower urinary tract (bladder and urethra) using a tiny, flexible, lighted instrument attached to a camera and monitor.

When a bladder tumor is identified on cystoscopy, attention is directed to the number of tumors present, their size, location within the bladder, and physical appearance.

Once a bladder tumor is recognized, it needs to be removed and sent for pathological evaluation. This is performed under general or spinal anesthesia via cystoscopy, using an electric loop which is used to remove the area of concern as well as cauterize (use electricity to coagulate tissue) the underlying and adjacent tissue, both to stop bleeding and further destroy tumor cells.

The biopsied tissue is carefully examined by a pathologist, who will provide valuable information regarding malignancy vs. benignity, the type of tumor, depth of tumor, and grade of tumor.

Types of Bladder Cancer

The biopsy information will enable the staging of the bladder cancer, a means of classifying the cancer. Staging of bladder cancer is as follows:

  • Ta: Superficial cancer is found only in polyps (papillary) on the surface of the inner lining of the bladder.
  • Tis: Carcinoma-in-situ. Tumor is found only in flat lesions on the surface of the inner lining of the bladder.
  • T1: Tumor is found in the connective tissue below the lining of the bladder but has not spread to the bladder muscle.
  • T2: Tumor has spread to the muscle layer deep to the lining of the bladder.
  • T3a: Tumor has spread through the muscular wall of the bladder into the fatty tissue layer as identified under microscopic examination.
  • T3b: Tumor has spread through the muscular wall of the bladder into the fatty tissue layer and is capable of being identified without a microscope.
  • T4: Tumor has spread to the prostate in men and to the uterus or vagina in women, or to the pelvic or abdominal wall in either gender.

How is bladder cancer treated?

Bladder cancer often needs to be treated with a surgical procedure involving either partial or complete removal of the urinary bladder. If the entire bladder needs to be removed, the ureters (tubes that conduct the urine from the kidneys to the bladder) need to be diverted to a piece of intestine that is either attached to the skin to a collection bag or attached to the urethra (neo-bladder or “reconstructed” bladder). At times, in lieu of surgery, chemo-radiation can be utilized (a combination of radiation therapy provided by the radiation oncologist and chemotherapy provided by the medical oncologist).

Superficial cancers are usually managed with cystoscopy, with regular “surveillance” due to the high predilection for recurrence. It’s important to have frequent check-ups (every 3 months for the first year after initial diagnosis), consisting of periodic urinalysis, urine cytology, imaging, and cystoscopy. If surveillance does not demonstrate any recurrences, the interval between follow up can gradually be increased (to every 6 months in the 2nd year; if there are no recurrences, to an annual check-up). If a recurrence is found, treatment must be repeated and the surveillance frequency then starts anew with the every 3-month cycle.

To help prevent recurrence, under certain circumstances it is beneficial to use a medication that is instilled in the bladder on a weekly basis—this is especially useful when many tumors are present, in the presence of a high-grade tumor, or cancers that have recurred. It’s particularly useful for carcinoma-in-situ (CIS), a variant of bladder cancer that is very superficial, flat, yet of a high-grade pathological nature. The medication of choice is tuberculosis vaccine—BCG (bacillus Calmette Guerin), which is a live, attenuated (weakened) form of tuberculosis bacteria!

Written by Dr. Andrew Siegel

1 2 3 9

Search

+
Skip to content