Bladder Cancer

What is bladder cancer?

The bladder is a balloon-shaped organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine from the kidneys until it is passed out of the body. Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the bladder, most often in the cells that line the inside of the bladder. Bladder cancer occurs when there are abnormal, cancerous cells growing out of control in the lining of the bladder. Different types of cells in the bladder can become cancerous:
  • Transitional cell carcinoma begins in the cells lining the inside of the bladder. Transitional cells expand when the bladder is full and contract when the bladder is empty. They also line other parts of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters, and urethra. 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that can form in the bladder in response to bladder inflammation or irritation. Over time they can become cancerous. 
  • Adenocarcinoma begins in the glandular (secretory) cells that make mucus-secreting glands in the bladder. 
These cells affect the normal function of the bladder and can spread to surrounding organs. The type of bladder cell where cancer begins determines the type of bladder cancer. There are two types of bladder cancer:
  • Nonmuscle-invasive bladder cancer (superficial bladder cancer) occurs when cancerous cells are contained in the lining of the bladder and have not invaded the bladder wall. 
  • Muscle-invasive bladder cancer occurs when the cancer invades the bladder wall. In some cases, muscle-invasive bladder cancer can also spread (metastasize) to surrounding organs or other parts of the body. 
The stages of bladder cancer are:
  • Stage I. Cancer at this stage occurs in the bladder's inner lining but hasn't invaded the muscular bladder wall.
  • Stage II. At this stage, cancer has invaded the bladder wall but is still confined to the bladder.
  • Stage III. The cancer cells have spread through the bladder wall to surrounding tissue.
  • Stage IV. By this stage, cancer cells may have spread to the lymph nodes and other organs, such as your bones, liver or lungs.
Risk factors
  • Smoking. The body processes the chemicals in the smoke and excretes some of them in your urine, which may damage the lining of your bladder and can increase your risk of cancer. 
  • Age. The risk of bladder cancer increases with age. 
  • Race. Caucasians have a greater risk of bladder cancer than do people of other races.
  • Gender. Men are more likely to develop bladder cancer than women are.
  • Environmental exposures.  Being around certain chemicals may increase your risk of bladder cancer, including arsenic and chemicals used in the manufacture of dyes, rubber, leather, textiles, paint products, and hairdressing supplies. 
  • Previous cancer treatment. Prior radiation exposure and certain chemotherapy drugs increase the risk of bladder cancer.  
  • Chronic bladder inflammation. Chronic or repeated urinary infections or inflammations (cystitis) may increase the risk of a squamous cell bladder cancer.
  • Personal or family history of cancer. It is possible for bladder cancer to recur if a patient has had bladder cancer in the past. If a relative has a history of bladder cancer, the risk for the disease increases in some patients.



  • Cystoscopy. During cystoscopy, your doctor inserts a narrow tube (cystoscope) through your urethra, allowing your doctor to view and examine the inside of your urethra and bladder.
  • Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT). During cystoscopy, a cell sample (biopsy) is collected for testing. 
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests allow your doctor to examine the structures of your urinary tract. 
  • Intravenous pyelogram is a type of X-ray that uses a dye to highlight the kidneys, ureters and bladder. 
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan is a type of X-ray to better see the urinary tract and surrounding tissues
The type of treatment provided is determined by the type of bladder cancer a patient has. Treatment options include immunotherapy for superficial cancers, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In many cases, a combination of these treatments will be used. 
  • Each year in the United States, about 54,000 men and 17,000 women get bladder cancer.
  • Men are about three times more likely to get bladder cancer during their lifetime than women.
  • About 11,000 men and 4,500 women die from the disease.
  • Occurs in Caucasians 2x as often as in African Americans.
  • Over 90% of patients who are diagnosed are older than 55. The average age at time of diagnosis is 73
bladder cancer about

  • "Bladder Cancer." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 30 June 2015. Web. 21 May 2017.
  • "Bladder Cancer." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 July 2016. Web. 21 May 2017.
  • "What You Need to Know About Bladder Cancer." Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Health System, n.d. Web. 21 May 2017.
  • "Bladder Cancer." Stanford Health Care (SHC) - Stanford Medical Center. Stanford Health Care, 21 Dec. 2016. Web. 21 May 2017.
  • "Bladder Cancer Symptoms & Treatment." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 21 May 2017.


Many of us take our bladders for granted. We don’t think twice about using the bathroom or the function that our bladder carries out during the process. Bladder health is very important and is impacted by many lifestyle and environmental factors. November is Bladder Health Month and the Urology Care Foundation is taking action by informing the public about common bladder health problems. To commemorate this annual event, here are four ways to keep your bladder healthy:
bladder health awareness month


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