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J Spinal Cord Med. 2003 Winter;26(4):335-8.

Bladder cancer in patients with spinal cord injury.

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SCI Department, VA Boston Healthcare System, West Roxbury Division, West Roxbury, Massachusetts 02132, USA.



The incidence of bladder cancer in spinal cord injury (SCI) is 16 to 28 times higher than that in the general population. The objective of this study was to investigate the characteristics of bladder cancer that are unique to the SCI population.


Retrospective review.


The charts of 16 patients diagnosed with bladder cancer from 1982 to 2001 were reviewed for type of cancer, exposure to risk factors, presenting symptoms, and survival time.


The presenting manifestations were gross hematuria in 14 patients, papillary urethral growth in 1 patient, and acute obstructive renal failure in 1 patient. The diagnosis was made on initial cystoscopic evaluation in 16 patients; 3 patients required further evaluation. Eight of the 11 screening cytologies were suspicious for a malignancy prior to the diagnosis. Seven patients had transitional cell carcinoma, 6 patients had squamous cell carcinoma (SCCA), and 3 patients had both. The bladder wasmanaged with chronic indwelling catheter in 12 patients. Nine patients died of bladder cancer metastases and the remaining 3 patients died of other causes. Six patients survived 5 years or more; 4 were still alive at the completion of this study.


Gross hematuria in individuals with SCI warrants aggressive assessment for bladder cancer. Chronic indwelling catheter, smoking, and renal and bladder stones are important risk factors for cancer. The incidence of SCCA in the SCI popullation is much higher than in the general population. Cystoscopic and cytologic evaluation in patients with advanced disease may fail to confirm the diagnosis in a high proportion of patients.

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