A bladder with a tumor

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer, the most common type of urinary tract cancer, affects men more frequently than women. The average five-year survival rate for all types of bladder cancer is 77%. However, if bladder cancer is found and treated before it spreads outside the bladder, the five-year survival rate is 96%. Risk factors include smoking, carcinogen exposure, chronic bladder infections, and hereditary predisposition. 

Bladder cancer is usually asymptomatic, but it can produce blood in the urine and pelvic discomfort. It is diagnosed with imaging tests, and the type, grade, and stage are determined based on a biopsy. Urothelial cell cancer, also called transitional epithelial cancer, is the most common type of bladder cancer. Treatment includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, sometimes with surgical restructuring of affected parts of the urinary system.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is bladder cancer curable?

    Bladder cancer can be curable, and the likelihood of cure is higher if it is diagnosed at an early stage. Without treatment, bladder cancer does not go away on its own, and treatment is associated with a 60 to 70% recurrence rate. Coping with bladder cancer after treatment includes follow up surveillance to identify signs of recurrence.

  • What causes bladder cancer?

    Bladder cancer occurs when cells in the bladder mutate (their genetic structure is altered) in a way that allows them to proliferate and invade other tissue. Risk factors include smoking, exposure to certain toxins (arsenic, textiles, paint material and more), hereditary predisposition, chronic inflammation of the urinary system, and chronic schistosomiasis infection.

  • What are the signs of bladder cancer?

    Often, bladder cancer doesn’t cause signs until late stages. The subtle effects that can occur at early or late stages of the disease are not specific to bladder cancer. Symptoms can include intermittent blood in the urine (it can be microscopic), pelvic discomfort, trouble urinating, urinary incontinence, fatigue, and bone pain.

  • What is the best treatment for bladder cancer?

    The treatment strategy for bladder cancer involves a combined approach. Surgery can remove the tumor, chemotherapy and immunotherapy are used to destroy cancer cells, and radiation shrinks the tumor. Surgery can involve resection of a small region of the bladder, or the whole bladder might need to be removed. If the bladder is removed, a pouch is surgically placed for urine collection.

Key Terms

The Stages of Bladder Cancer

Explore interactive models that show how bladder cancer can progress in the body, and the changes that occur in each stage of the disease.

Woman with bladder pain
What Are Early Symptoms of Bladder Cancer?
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Stages of Bladder Cancer: What You Need to Know
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Stages of Bladder Cancer
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What Is Urothelial Bladder Cancer?
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How BCG Treatment Fights Bladder Cancer
Surgeon performing operation in operating room
What Is TURBT?
Bladder cancer shown inside a woman's lower pelvis
Bladder Cancer in Woman
Senior woman on a video call with a doctor
What to Know About Telehealth for Bladder Cancer
Hearing A Prognosis
Bladder Cancer Stages and Prognosis
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How Can BCG Immunotherapy Treat Bladder Cancer?
Bladder cancer
Understanding Your Bladder Biopsy
Doctor with athlete/sportsman's urine sample
Non-Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer: Symptoms and Treatment
Man listening to results
How Bladder Cancer in Men Is Treated
A doctor discusses a new diagnosis with an older male patient.
What Is Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC)?
Page Sources
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  2. American Cancer Society. Survival rates for bladder cancer. January 8, 2020. 

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