Important Information to Know About Bladder Cancer

May 09,2023 |
Doctor talking to patient about bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that’s localized within the cells of the bladder. It’s a relatively common form of cancer, with an estimated 82,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States alone. It can occur at any age but tends to be most common in people over the age of 55. Unfortunately, the exact cause of bladder cancer is still unknown, but there are things you can do to protect your health and reduce your risk. Luckily, early detection and the advancements in treatment have improved outcomes for individuals diagnosed. To help you better understand this condition, we’ll cover some important information regarding bladder cancer and its prognosis.


Key Information About Bladder Cancer

There are several types of bladder cancer, which are classified based on the cells from which the cancer originates. The most common types of bladder cancer are:

  • Urothelial Carcinoma: This is the most common type of bladder cancer (previously called transitional cell carcinoma), accounting for about 90% of all cases. It develops in the cells that line the inside of the bladder.


  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This type of bladder cancer develops in the thin, flat cells that can form in the bladder after long-term infections, irritations, inflammation, or catheter use.


  • Adenocarcinoma: This is a rare type of bladder cancer that develops in the cells that produce mucus in the bladder lining.

Less common types of bladder cancer include small cell carcinoma and sarcoma. The treatment and prognosis for each type of bladder cancer varies, so it’s crucial to receive an accurate diagnosis from your doctor.


What Causes Bladder Cancer?

The exact cause of bladder cancer is still unknown, but certain risk factors have been identified. These may increase your risk of developing bladder cancer, or several other types of cancer. The most pressing risk factors include the following:



Smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products is the most significant risk factor for bladder cancer. In fact, smoking is responsible for about 50% of all new cases of bladder cancers in the U.S. in both men and women. It’s also a major risk factor for developing cancer in at least 14 other areas throughout the body.


Exposure to Certain Chemicals

Exposure to certain chemicals such as benzene, aromatic amines, and some types of dyes used in the textile, leather, and rubber industries may increase the risk of bladder cancer. If you work in an industry that increases your exposure to these chemicals, make sure you take precautions by wearing the proper safety gear and seeing your doctor regularly.


Age and Gender

Bladder cancer is more common in older adults, so your risk tends to increase as you age. Although it can affect people of any age, your risk continues to increase after 55. The average age of people diagnosed with bladder cancer is about 73. Men are also more likely to develop bladder cancer than women.


Chronic Bladder Infections

Some people are more prone to bladder issues than others. If you suffer from chronic bladder inflammation (cystitis), urinary tract infections, or irritations, you may be more likely to develop squamous cell bladder cancer in the future. Similarly, if you need to frequently use a urinary catheter, your risk may increase. Always talk to your doctor about measures you can take to help prevent chronic inflammation or infections and practice clean intermittent catheterization.


Family Medical History

Like many conditions, your family health history may play a role in the development of bladder cancer. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, it may increase your risk.


Radiation Therapy or Medication

People who have received radiation therapy to the pelvic area may have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. Additionally, long-term use of certain medications such as cyclophosphamide, which is used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases, may increase the risk of bladder cancer.

It’s important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that you’ll develop bladder cancer. Additionally, some people with bladder cancer may not have any known risk factors.


How Invasive is Bladder Cancer?

The invasiveness of bladder cancer depends on several factors, such as the stage and grade of the cancer, as well as the location of the tumors within the bladder. Bladder cancer can be classified into two main types: non-invasive and invasive. Non-invasive bladder cancer is limited to the inner lining of the bladder and has not spread to the muscle layer. Invasive bladder cancer may have already grown into the muscle layer of the bladder or beyond.

Invasive bladder cancer can be more difficult to treat and may require a more aggressive treatment approach. The invasiveness of bladder cancer can vary from person to person and should be assessed on an individual basis by a medical professional.


Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer can affect the body in several ways, which can cause several different symptoms. However, these symptoms can also indicate less severe conditions, so it’s important to see your doctor before jumping to any conclusions. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Hematuria (blood in the urine)
  • Painful urination
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Back pain
  • Kidney pain
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • A general feeling of weakness
  • Blockage of the urinary tract
  • Urinary retention


Although these are common symptoms, some people with bladder cancer may not experience any signs in the early stages of the disease. Regular screening and early detection can improve the chances of successful treatment and reduce the risk of complications.


How is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?

The diagnostic process for bladder cancer usually starts with a physical exam and a review of your medical history. To confirm the presence of cancer cells, a urinalysis, or urine cytology may be performed to check for abnormalities in the urine. Imaging tests, such as a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound, can create detailed images of the bladder and surrounding areas.

A cystoscopy, which involves the insertion of a thin tube with a camera through the urethra to examine the bladder, can also be used to detect any abnormal cells. During a cystoscopy, your doctor may also take a sample of tissue from the bladder to examine under a microscope and confirm the presence of cancer cells. Additionally, other tests may be done to determine the stage and grade of the cancer, which can help guide treatment. These tests may include a CT scan of the chest and abdomen, a bone scan, and blood tests to check kidney function.

The diagnostic process for bladder cancer can be complex, and the tests used will vary depending on the individual case, so always work with your doctor to better understand your situation and what to expect.


Treatment for Bladder Cancer

The treatment options for bladder cancer vary depending on the stage and grade of the cancer, as well as your overall health and preferences. Surgery is often the primary treatment for bladder cancer, as it can remove the cancerous cells. Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is a common surgery to remove tumors that are contained within the inner lining of the bladder. More advanced surgeries may be required for bladder cancer that’s spread.

Chemotherapy can also be used to kill cancer cells and may be given before or after surgery to help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence or to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Other treatment options include radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and various clinical trials for individuals who have exhausted other treatment options. Clinical trials may provide access to promising new therapies for individuals who aren’t responding to standard treatments, but they aren’t always successful. Talk to your doctor to discover your treatment options and create a plan of action that fits your needs.


Bladder Cancer Prognosis

When cancer is confined to the inner layers of the bladder, it’s much easier to treat. Higher stages become more difficult to treat, as the cancer has likely spread to the lymph nodes. Therefore, when caught early, bladder cancer has a high survival rate.

Although the cause of bladder cancer is unknown, living a healthy lifestyle and seeing your doctor regularly can help reduce your risk and increase the likelihood of early detection. Regardless of if you receive a bladder cancer diagnosis or are suffering from another urologic condition, Byram Healthcare provides supportive products to help you manage your symptoms.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.