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Bladder Cancer

Understanding Bladder Cancer

The bladder is a balloon-shaped organ that collects urine from the kidneys and stores it until it is eliminated through a tube called the urethra. The most common type of bladder cancer, urothelial carcinoma (UC), starts in the lining of the bladder. Bladder cancer begins when the cells in the lining of the bladder start to grow out of control. Urothelial cancer can occur anywhere in the urinary tract including the bladder, urethra, kidneys, and ureters.


  • Bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in men and the eighth most common cancer in women.
  • The average age of diagnosis is the early 70s.
  • Tobacco use has been linked as a cause, or risk factor, for the development of bladder cancer.
  • Caucasians are at a higher risk of developing bladder cancer.
  • Family or personal history of bladder cancer is a risk factor for developing the disease.
  • When bladder cancer is diagnosed and treated early, it often can be treated successfully.

Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Early stages of bladder cancer often produce no symptoms. Your first warning sign may be hematuria (blood in your urine that may be visible or only be visible under a microscope).

Other less common symptoms include:

  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urination or feeling an urge to urinate without results
  • Slow or intermittent urine stream
  • Pelvic pain

These symptoms may indicate other medical problems, such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones or prostate disorders; you will need a thorough evaluation to determine the cause.

Risk Factors

  • Cigarette smoking, the single greatest risk factor for bladder cancer
  • Exposure to industrial chemicals
  • Chronic bladder inflammation or foley catheter use
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy for other cancers

Less Common Risk Factors May Include:

  • Age – the average age is 67
  • Sex – men are at much higher risk
  • Race – Caucasians are at higher risk
  • Family or personal history of bladder cancer