Bladder Cancer: Patient Education

Cancer Facts

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • Bladder cancer occurs mainly in older people. About 9 out of 10 people with this cancer are over the age of 55. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 73.
  • Men are about 3 times more likely to get bladder cancer during their lifetime than women. Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in men.
  • Whites are diagnosed with bladder cancer almost twice as often as blacks. Hispanics have an even lower rate than blacks.
  • In about half of all cases, patients are first diagnosed with bladder cancer while it is still confined to the inner layer of the bladder (non-invasive or in situ cancer). About 35 percent have bladder cancer that has invaded into deeper layers but is still contained in the bladder. In most of the remaining cases, the cancer has spread to nearby tissues outside the bladder. Rarely (in about 4 percent of cases), it has spread to distant sites.


Bladder cancer is a malignant tumor that forms in the lining of the bladder.

Your bladder is a muscular, hollow organ that holds urine. It’s located in the center of your abdomen. It’s part of your urinary tract.

Your bladder generally holds about 2 cups of urine. Urine is made in your kidneys and is transported to the bladder through two tubes called ureters. The urine leaves your body through another tube called the urethra.

Your bladder is made of up several layers of tissue. Understanding these layers helps you to understand the progression of bladder cancer.

The lining of your bladder has four layers:

  • Urothelium or transitional epithelium — inner lining; these cells are called urothelial or transitional cells
  • Lamina propria — thin layer of connective tissue
  • Muscularis propria — layer of muscle
  • Fatty connective tissue — outer layer

The urothelium is where most bladder cancers begin. Your cancer becomes more challenging to treat as it grows through these various layers.

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Types of Bladder Cancer

There are four kinds of bladder cancer, differentiated by their cell types. The different cancers require different treatments.

The four kinds of bladder cancer are:

  • Transitional cell carcinoma (urothelial carcinoma) (97 percent)
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (1 to 2 percent)
  • Adenocarcinoma (1 percent)
  • Small cell (1 percent)

If you have bladder cancer, your physician will check other parts of your urinary tract to determine whether your cancer has spread. Sometimes similar tumors will grow in other parts of your urinary tract:

  • Renal pelvis (in your kidneys)
  • Ureters
  • Urethra


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