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Quick Facts

Bladder Cancer


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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Cancer is the out-of-control growth of cells in your body. Cells are the tiny building blocks of your body. Cells specialize in what they do. Different organs are made of different kinds of cells. Almost any kind of cell can become cancerous. 

What is bladder cancer?

Your bladder is a hollow balloon-like organ that holds urine until you urinate (pee). Bladder cancer is the out-of-control growth of cells in your bladder.

  • Smoking raises your chances of getting bladder cancer

  • About 3 times as many men as women get bladder cancer

  • The first symptom of bladder cancer is usually blood in your urine

  • Bladder cancer is usually treated with surgery

The Urinary Tract

The Urinary Tract

What causes bladder cancer?

Risk of bladder cancer is increased by:

  • Smoking—this causes about half of new bladder cancer cases

  • Exposure to certain industrial chemicals

  • Long-term use of certain medicines

Schistosomiasis also increases the risk of bladder cancer. In schistosomiasis, a disease that occurs in tropical climates, a certain parasite can infect the bladder.

What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?

The most common symptom is:

  • Blood in your urine

Other symptoms include:

  • Pain and burning while you pee

  • The need to pee right away and often

Symptoms of bladder cancer may be the same as symptoms of a bladder infection. Bladder infections are much more common than bladder cancer, but it's possible to have both.

How do doctors tell if I have bladder cancer?

Doctors may suspect bladder cancer if:

  • You have blood in your urine but don't have a urinary tract infection (UTI)

  • You keep getting treated for a bladder infection but your symptoms don't go away

To know for sure if you have bladder cancer, doctors will do:

  • Cystoscopy

  • Biopsy

In cystoscopy, doctors look inside your bladder with a small viewing tube. They put the tube in through the hole where your urine comes out (your urethra). You'll get medicine so it doesn't hurt. If they see something that might be cancer, they do a biopsy. In a biopsy, they take a sample of tissue to test in the laboratory.

If you have bladder cancer, doctors may do other tests, such as CT scan and chest x-ray, to see if the cancer has spread.

How can doctors treat bladder cancer?

If your cancer is only on the inner surface of the bladder, doctors will:

  • Remove the cancer during cytoscopy

  • Put medicine into the bladder after the cancer is gone

Cancer may regrow after it's removed.

If your cancer can't be removed by cytoscopy, doctors will:

If doctors take out your bladder, they'll create a new way for urine to leave your body. They may put in an artificial bladder or make an opening in your belly for urine to drain into a bag.

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