Marcia Wolinski recently won her second battle against cancer. The spirited 74-year-old Swampscott resident first beat bladder cancer 25 years ago when she was treated successfully for rectal cancer at NSMC Salem Hospital. The second battle took place just this past spring when a tumor in her bladder led to a radical cystectomy, or complete bladder removal.
Once again she turned to the clinical expertise at NSMC for treatment. “I was shocked to find out I had bladder cancer, because there were no symptoms,” says Wolinski, a mother of two and grandmother of four. Her primary care physician, Maurice Greenbaum, M.D., had found microscopic blood cells in her urine during a routine physical examination and, based on her medical history, suggested she see a urologist immediately.
Dr. Greenbaum’s instincts were right. A series of tests conducted by urologist John Bucchiere, M.D., determined that Wolinski had an aggressive form of bladder cancer that had already spread into the muscle layer of her bladder. Her only option was to have it surgically removed.
“Bladder cancer typically begins in the lining of the bladder, the balloon-shaped organ in the pelvic area that stores urine,” says urologist Michael Callum, M.D., who operated on Wolinski at NSMC Salem Hospital. “The most common form is superficial bladder cancer, which remains confined to the bladder lining and can be treated with minimally invasive surgery or chemotherapy.” As Callum explained, Wolinski had an aggressive form of what is called muscle-invasive bladder cancer that often can spread to other parts of the body.
Bladder cancer—the fourth most common cancer in the United States for men and the ninth for women—often does not produce warning signs or symptoms in its early stages. As was the case with Wolinski, the first warning sign is usually blood in the urine. Risk factors include smoking and exposure to certain toxic chemicals and drugs.
Wolinski’s surgery went very well. Because the cancer was self-contained in her bladder, no follow-up chemotherapy was necessary. As part of the procedure, Dr. Callum also reconstructed her urinary tract so that her urine is redirected to a small pouch on her abdomen. She will continue to see Dr. Callum on a regular basis to watch for signs of recurrence, but her long-term prognosis is excellent.
“The biggest thrill for me was hearing Dr. Callum say he got it. I'm cancer free."