When a CT scan shows “something” in the bladder, even what’s labeled an air pocket, the first thing that comes to mind is cancer.

Bladder cancer strikes about 80,000 Americans every year. All ages are affected, but 57 percent of cases occur between 65 and 74. The five year mortality rate is about 76 percent.

Air Pocket in Bladder
Seen on CT Scan

“The most common cause of air in the bladder on imaging is from instrumentation [bladder viewing], a recent cystoscopy or Foley catheter,” says Dana Rice, MD, a board certified urologist and creator of the UTI Tracker mobile app, which helps patients catalogue daily urinary tract symptoms, medication and behavioral patterns, and offers personalized tips for UTI prevention.

A cystoscopy is a procedure that’s used to view the inside of the urethra and bladder with a special lens.

A Foley catheter is the bag and tube set up so that the patient’s urinary output can go through the tube and into the bag.

“Other sources are infection and fistula. Fistula may be from bowel to bladder, vagina to bladder or other various combinations of hollow organs combining.

“While a additional workup is needed [when an air pocket shows], there are non-cancerous reasons why you may have air in your bladder.”

But non-cancerous reasons does not mean that an air pocket can’t be the result of cancer, which is why additional workup is needed!

Dr. Rice explains, “In fact, many fistulas to the bladder are from colon cancer eroding into the bladder, and the only presentation is air in the bladder.”

Colon cancer is stealthy and usually, by the time a patient begins experiencing symptoms, the malignancy almost always has spread beyond local confines.

This is why it is SO crucial to undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50 (for people with average risk factors). This should be discussed with your doctor.

Dr. Rice is with Inova Medical Group in Fairfax, VA, and her clinical interests include bladder, kidney and prostate cancer, minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery.