Bladder Cancer

Cancer in the bladder

By Sarah Leavitt, Medical Research EditorLast modified: March 07, 2011

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is a slow developing cancer that affects more men than women. Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that is often detected early and is curable in 90% of cases. Over 70,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer annually and three of every four people diagnosed are male.


What is bladder cancer?

The bladder is the organ of the body that stores urine made in the kidneys. The bladder functions as a bag that can hold up to 5 cups of urine and is made of stretchy muscle tissue. The bladder is one of the organs that make up the urinary tract, along with the kidneys, uretha and for men, the prostate.  


The walls of the bladder are lined with cells called transitional cells. These cells provide the lining that prevents urine leaking from the bladder walls. 90% of bladder cancer develops inside these transitional cells. There are two types of transitional cell bladder cancer:


              Superficial bladder cancer: This type of cancer develops in the outer cells of the bladder lining and is the early stage of invasive bladder cancer. Superficial bladder cancer in the transitional cells develops as mushroom shaped growths that can be easily removed. A more serious form of superficial transitional cell cancer is 'carcinoma in situ.' This type of bladder cancer grows flat against the bladder wall and is fast spreading. 


              Invasive bladder cancer: Invasive bladder cancer is diagnosed when the cancer cells from superficial bladder cancer have spread into the tissue and muscle layer of the bladder. Once bladder cancer develops to the invasive stage it is more likely to spread to other areas of the body.  


A rarer type of bladder cancer, affecting only 2% of patients, is squamous cell bladder cancer. This bladder cancer develops in the tissue that lines the bladder wall. 


Causes of bladder cancer

The highest risk factor for bladder cancer is smoking. 2/3 of bladder cancer cases are linked to smoking. The risk of developing bladder cancer from smoking is increased due to the way the body removes chemicals. Chemicals that enter the bloodstream are filtered into the kidney and then filtered into the urine. When urine enters the bladder it is stored until the bladder empties. This means the bladder is exposed to the chemicals from cigarettes for a prolonged period of time.


Bladder cancer is more common in men and people over the age of 40 are more at risk.


Chemical exposure, family history of bladder cancer and repeated bladder infections all increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. 


Bladder Cancer Symptoms

The main symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Blood in the urine does not always mean bladder cancer is present but it is a generally a symptom of a problem. Anybody who notices blood in the urine should contact a doctor for tests. 


Painful urination and increased frequency of urination are also symptoms of bladder cancer. 


Bladder Cancer Treatment

If bladder cancer is diagnosed during the early stages, surgery to remove the tumorous cells is effective at treating the cancer.


Bladder cancer that is detected at a later stage of the disease, when it is invasive bladder cancer, requires more invasive treatment. Surgery may be necessary to remove part or all of the bladder and invasive bladder cancer will also be treated with chemotherapy before or after surgery.


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This article was written by the medical research team at does not intend for any of the information on this site to be regarded as medical advice - it is meant as a starting point for understanding treatment details and options before contacting a registered, licensed doctor. We advise all patients to seek medical advice from a doctor.
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