A warning on bladder cancer biopsies

According to the medical literature, bladder cancer “occurs most commonly in the elderly: the median age at diagnosis is 69 years for men and 71 years for women.” Why are we bringing up such a grim topic? Because UCLA just published a study in the journal Cancer on a sometimes fatal issue with bladder cancer biopsies and it’s important to get the word out.

Courtesy: Zazzle.com/thisandthatgifts

Courtesy: Zazzle.com/thisandthatgifts

The study found that about half of bladder cancer biopsies didn’t take enough tissue to accurately stage the cancer. Tragically, less-than-optimal biopsies and incorrect tumor staging were associated with a significant increase in deaths from bladder cancer.

The study’s first author, Dr. Karim Chamie, an assistant professor of urology and surgical director of the bladder cancer program at UCLA, explains that that many times, biopsies only take tissue from the inner lining of the bladder itself, ignoring the underlying muscle wall. If the cancer has started to invade, tissue from the muscle wall needs to be examined to determine the next course of treatment.

Chamie offers this advice to patients and their families: “We hope these findings will help empower patients to ask about the quality of their biopsy and, if it is suboptimal, then urge their doctors to repeat the biopsy prior to deciding on what type of treatment to prescribe.” By “suboptimal,” he means no tissue was taken from the muscle wall. Don’t be afraid to ask, it could save your or a loved one’s life.