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About Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the bladder.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of bladder cancer:

  • Blood in the urine (slightly rusty to bright red in color)
  • Frequent urination
  • Painful urination
  • Lower back pain

Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about bladder cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

Image of the Urinary System

The male urinary system (left panel) and female urinary system (right panel) showing the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.
The male urinary system (left panel) and female urinary system (right panel) showing the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.

Specialties & Treatments

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the cancer, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common types of treatment:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Urologic Cancers Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for people with bladder cancer. Our experts treat and diagnose all types of urologic cancers and conditions.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments.

Find a Bladder Cancer Doctor

Causes & Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

The chance of getting bladder cancer increases with age. These are other risk factors:

  • A personal history of bladder cancer or other bladder disease
  • A family history of bladder cancer
  • Changes in certain genes that increase the risk of bladder cancer
  • Using tobacco, especially smoking cigarettes
  • Taking Aristolochia fangchi, a Chinese herb

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and about cancer screenings.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Bladder Cancer

Doctors use these tests to diagnose bladder cancer:

  • Tissue sampling: The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
  • Ultrasound: This procedure uses high-energy sound waves to create a picture of the internal organs.
  • Physical exam and history: A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
  • Laboratory tests: Through testing body tissues, blood, urine, or other substances in the body, your health care team can check to see how the bladder and other organs are functioning. They can also look for substances that cells produce when cancer is present.
  • Imaging tests: Using dyes and x-rays, your health care provider can create detailed images of internal organs. Your health care provider may inject or have you swallow a dye to help see the images.

Stages of Bladder Cancer

Staging is the process that shows whether cancer has spread within or around the bladder or to other parts of the body. Cancer spreads in the body in three ways: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

These are the stages used for bladder cancer:

  • Stage 0 (0a & 0is): This stage may also be called papillary carcinoma or carcinoma in situ. Tests have found abnormal cells in the bladder lining. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread.
  • Stage 1: Cancer has formed and spread to the connective tissue layer next to the inner lining of the bladder.
  • Stage 2: Cancer has spread to the muscle tissue of the bladder.
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread from the bladder to the surrounding layer of fat and possibly to the reproductive organs.
  • Stage 4: Cancer has spread from the bladder to the wall of the abdomen or pelvis, to one or more lymph nodes, or to any other part of the body.

When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if bladder cancer spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually bladder cancer cells. The disease is metastatic bladder cancer, not bone cancer.

Learn more about the stages of bladder cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

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