Bladder Cancer Staging

What Stage is My Bladder Cancer?

Determining your cancer’s stage helps your doctor decide which treatments will be most effective for you. Bladder cancer staging is based on a TNM classification system that looks at three main characteristics of your cancer – the tumor (T), lymph nodes (N) and whether cancer is found in other parts of the body, called metastasis (M).

Tumor (T) – Your tumor will be classified according to its shape and depth (how far it has spread into the bladder wall.

Nodes (N) – Your lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs found throughout your body. These are part of your immune system and lymph nodes enlarge when infected or invaded by cancer cells. If you underwent a cystectomy (surgery to remove entire bladder) your surgeon also removed lymph nodes in the bladder area to see if cancer cells are found in them. If so, this indicates that the cancer has begun to spread.

Metastasis (M) – Metastasis means that cancer cells from the bladder have spread to other parts of the body, such as your lungs, kidneys, bones and distant lymph nodes. When this occurs, the cancer cells found in other parts of the body are still bladder cells. For example, if the cancer cells are found in your lungs, it is not lung cancer, but rather bladder cancer with lung metastasis.