Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer Image

Cancer of the bladder involves malignant, uncontrolled cell growths (tumors) on the bladder, the muscular organ in the pelvic region that stores urine.

According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2010 in the United States, 70,530 new cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed, and the disease resulted in 14,680 deaths.

Almost 75 percent of the people diagnosed with bladder cancer are men, and most cases occur in people over the age of 70. The most significant risk factor for cancer of the bladder is smoking tobacco.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

Possible bladder cancer symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent urination, or having the urge to urinate without being able to do so
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain during urination.

Bladder cancer can be one of three types, depending on where the cancer starts. The most common type of bladder cancer in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic, is transitional cell carcinoma, which starts in the cells that line the inside of the bladder. The other two types are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.

Bladder cancer staging determines how far along the cancer has progressed. Stages range from 0 — meaning abnormal, potentially-cancerous cells are present — to Stage IV, meaning the cancer has spread to the wall of the abdomen or pelvis and may also have spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Bladder Cancer Treatment

Bladder cancer treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health.

Bladder cancer surgery is one option. Various types of surgery are available:

  • Radical cystectomy completely removes the bladder, plus the lymph nodes and nearby organs that contain cancer. In males, the prostate may also be removed.
  • Segmental cystectomy removes only part of the bladder.
  • Transurethral resection (TUR) with fulguration attempts to remove or burn away the tumor without removing the bladder.
  • Urinary diversion creates a new way for the body to store and pass urine.

The standard non-surgical bladder cancer treatment options are radiation therapy, chemotherapy and biologic therapy (the use of substances to stimulate a person’s immune system to fight the cancer).

Additional bladder cancer research is underway, including studies looking at chemoprevention, the use of drugs, vitamins or other substances to reduce the risk of cancer either occurring at all or coming back after successful treatment. Researchers are also studying photodynamic therapy, which uses a drug and laser light to kill cancer cells.


Mayo Clinic. (2009). Bladder cancer. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from

National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Bladder cancer. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from