Bladder cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells
form in the tissues of the bladder.
The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower part of the abdomen. It is shaped like a small balloon and has a muscular wall that
allows it to get larger or smaller. The bladder stores urine until it is passed out of the body. Urine is the liquid waste that is made by
the kidneys when they clean the blood. The urine passes from the two kidneys
into the bladder through two tubes called ureters. When the bladder is emptied
during urination, the urine goes from the bladder to the outside of the body
through another tube called the urethra.
Anatomy of the female urinary system showing the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.
Anatomy of the male urinary system showing the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.
Cancer that is confined to the lining of the bladder is called
superficial bladder cancer. Cancer that begins in the transitional cells may spread
through the lining of the bladder and invade the muscle wall of the bladder or spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes;
this is called invasive bladder cancer.
See the following PDQ summaries for more information:
Possible signs of bladder cancer include blood in the urine or
pain during urination.
These and other symptoms may be caused by bladder cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems
Blood in the urine (slightly rusty to bright red in
Frequent urination, or feeling the need to urinate without
being able to do so.
Pain during urination.
Lower back pain.
Tests that examine the urine, vagina, or rectum are used to
help detect (find) and diagnose bladder cancer.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
Internal exam: An exam of the vagina and/or rectum. The doctor inserts gloved fingers
into the vagina and/or rectum to feel for lumps.
(IVP): A series of x-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder to find out if cancer is present in these organs. A contrast dye is injected into a vein. As the contrast dye moves through the kidneys, ureters, and bladder, x-rays are taken to see if there are any blockages.
Cystoscopy: A procedure to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas. A cystoscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. A cystoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
Cystoscopy. A cystoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing) is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. Fluid is used to fill the bladder. The doctor looks at an image of the inner wall of the bladder on a computer monitor.
Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. A biopsy for bladder cancer is usually done during cystoscopy. It may be possible to remove the entire tumor during biopsy.
Urine cytology: Examination of urine under a microscope to check for abnormal cells.
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.