Bladder Cancer: Be a Proactive Patient


July is National Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. To help you better understand, fight and beat this disease, we have compiled some key facts and statistics. Take charge of your health and stay educated by consulting the Genitourinary Cancer Care Center at Roswell Park or the links and sources below.

Bladder Cancer Stats

  • Bladder cancer occurs mainly in older people; average age at the time of diagnosis is 73.
  • Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in men.
  • Men are about three times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women. Men have about a 1 in 26 chance of developing the disease in their lifetime. For women, the chance is about 1 in 86. (The risk for a particular person may be higher or lower, based on whether or not they smoke.)
  • Cigarette smoking is the most significant risk factor in developing bladder cancer. Smokers are 3 - 4 times more likely to get the disease than non-smokers.
  • In about half of all cases, patients are diagnosed with low grade, non-invasive disease that is still confined to the inner layer of the bladder.

Bladder Cancer Types

  • Transitional cell carcinoma (also called urothelial carcinoma) is the most common type of bladder cancer and accounts for about 95 percent of cases. Two very important traits predict the outlook for transitional cell carcinomas — the grade of the cancer and whether or not it’s invasive. If the cells look more like normal cells, the cancer is called a low-grade cancer. When the cells look more abnormal, the cancer is high-grade. If the cancer stays in the inner layer of the cells without growing into the deeper layers, it is called non-invasive. If the cancer grows into the lamina propria or even deeper into the muscle layer, it is called invasive.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 1 - 2 percent of bladder cancers in the US. Under a microscope, the cells look much like the flat cells that are found on the surface of the skin. Nearly all squamous cell carcinomas are invasive.
  • Adenocarcinoma accounts for about 1 percent of bladder cancers. The cancer cells have a lot in common with gland-forming cells of colon cancers. Nearly all adenocarcinomas of the bladder are invasive.
  • Small cell carcinoma accounts for less than 1 percent of bladder cancers. These nerve-like cells, called neuroendocrine cells, typically need to be treated with chemotherapy similar to that used for small-cell carcinoma of the lung.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

Recognize the symptoms of bladder cancer and act quickly at the first sign of a problem. Like with most cancers, early detection is the best way to combat this disease. Because the symptoms below could mirror other bladder conditions, it’s important to seek immediate consultation especially if risk factors are in play.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Bone pain or tenderness if the cancer spreads to the bone
  • Fatigue
  • Painful urination
  • Urinary frequency
  • Urinary urgency
  • Urine leakage (incontinence)
  • Weight loss
  • Lower back or pelvic pain

Risk Factors

  • Smokers are more than twice as likely to get bladder cancer as non-smokers.
  • Workplace exposures to dye, rubber, textile and leather can increase your risk by 20 percent.
  • Radiation treatment for other cancers has been linked to bladder cancer. Treatment with the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide also increases the risk of getting bladder cancer.
  • Arsenic in drinking water has been linked to an increase risk in bladder cancer.
  • Family history of bladder cancer increases your chance of developing it as well.
  • Personal history of bladder cancer increases your risk of recurrence.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What type of bladder cancer do I have?
  • Has my cancer spread beyond the bladder?
  • What is the stage and grade of my cancer?
  • Do other tests need to be done before we decide on treatment?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What is the goal of the treatment?
  • What are the chances my cancer can be cured with these options
  • What are the risks or side effects that I should expect?
  • How quickly do we need to decide on treatment?
  • What should I do to prepare for treatment?
  • Should I follow a special diet?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • What would we do if the treatment doesn't work or if the cancer recurs?


Bladder Cancer Advocacy Group

American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute

New York State Department of Health