About Bladder Cancer

A closer look at the bladder and the genitourinary system.

Most people diagnosed with bladder cancer are over age 70, and men are three times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women.

Part of the urinary system, the bladder is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen which stores urine, liquid waste made by the kidneys. Urine passes from the kidneys through long tubes called ureters and into the bladder. Urine leaves the bladder and exits the body through a shorter tube called the urethra.

The bladder is made up of three layers of tissue:

  • Inner layer (lining): Cells of this lining, called transitional cells, stretch as the bladder fills with urine, and shrink as the bladder empties.
  • Middle (muscle) layer: Consists of muscle tissue which contracts to squeeze urine out of the body.
  • Outer layer: This layer which covers the bladder consists of fat, fibrous tissue and blood vessels.

Nine out of 10 Americans with bladder cancer have a cancer type that begins in the transitional cells on the surface of the bladder’s inner lining.

Metastatic Bladder Cancer

When cancer cells break away from the primary tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another, secondary, tumor may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary (metastatic) tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if bladder cancer spreads to the prostate, the cancer cells in the prostate are actually bladder cancer cells. The disease is metastatic bladder cancer, not prostate cancer.

Symptoms

Symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Blood in the urine (making the urine slightly rusty to deep red)
  • Pain during urination
  • Urgent urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling the need to urinate, but not being able to urinate

These signs do not always mean cancer. Infections, benign tumors, bladder stones or other problems may cause these symptoms. Seek your physician’s advice, especially if you have risk factors.