The bladder is a hollow and muscular organ that collects and stores urine (pee). In the UK, over 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year.
Types of bladder cancer
There are different types of bladder cancer. These are named after the cell they started in.
The most common type of bladder cancer is called urothelial bladder cancer. It is also called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). It starts in cells called urothelial or transitional cells in the bladder lining.
Bladder cancer may be non-muscle-invasive, muscle-invasive or advanced.
We have more information about the types of bladder cancer.
The most common bladder cancer symptom is blood in the pee. Blood in pee is also called haematuria. Most people with symptoms will not have bladder cancer. But if you have any symptoms, it is important to get them checked by your GP. The earlier bladder cancer is diagnosed the more likely it is to be cured.
We have more information about signs and symptoms of bladder cancer.
There are certain things that can affect the chances of developing bladder cancer. These are called risk factors.
The main risk factor is age. Bladder cancer is more common in people over the age of 60. It is rare in people under the age of 40. Another risk factor is smoking. Smoking may cause about 4 in 10 (40%) bladder cancers.
We have more information about these and other causes and risk factors of bladder cancer.
If you have symptoms, you usually start by seeing your GP. They can do a quick test to find out if there is any blood in a sample of your urine. If there is blood, your GP will make sure there is no obvious reason for this, like an infection.
If your GP is not sure what is causing your symptoms, they will usually refer you to a urologist. This is a doctor who specialises in urinary, bladder and kidney problems. Or you may see a nurse called a urology nurse specialist.
Most people see the nurse or doctor at a haematuria clinic. At the clinic, you can usually have most of the tests you need on the same day.
If tests or symptoms suggest you could have bladder cancer, you should be seen by a specialist within 2 weeks.
You may have some of the following tests:
A sample of your urine may be tested for cancer cells. It may also be tested for substances that are found in bladder cancer. This is called molecular testing.
Waiting for test results can be a difficult time. We have more information that may help.
You may also have tests to check areas near the bladder or to look for signs of cancer in other areas of the body. These may include:
The stage of a cancer describes where the cancer has been found and other places it has spread to.
Grading describes how the cancer cells look under the microscope compared with normal cells.
Knowing the stage and grade helps your doctors plan the best treatment for you.
We have more information about staging and grading of bladder cancer.
Treatment for bladder cancer depends on whether the cancer is:
The cancer cells are only in the inner lining of the bladder. They have not spread into the muscle layer.
The cancer has spread into or through the bladder.
The cancer has spread outside the bladder into nearby tissues, the prostate, vagina, ovaries, womb or back passage (rectum). It may also be in one of the lymph nodes in the pelvis, near to the bladder.
The cancer has spread from the bladder to other parts of the body.
We have more information about treating bladder cancer.