Cancer Types | Bladder Cancer - National Foundation for Cancer Research

Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer develops when the urinary bladder cells begin to proliferate out of control. The terms non-invasive or invasive cancers are used to describe how far bladder cancer has spread into the bladder wall. About half of all bladder cancers are first found in the inner layer of the bladder wall (non-invasive) which is easier to treat than invasive cancer. Urothelial carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer. Squamous cell carcinomas, adenocarcinomas, small-cell carcinomas, and sarcomas are less common in the U.S.

Key Facts

  • An estimated 82,290 new cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2023, and an estimated 16,710 deaths will occur.
  • Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men.
  • The lifetime risk of getting bladder cancer in the U.S. is about 1 in 28 for men and 1 in 91 for women.
  • Caucasians are about twice as likely to develop bladder cancer than African Americans or Hispanic Americans.
  • Bladder cancer occurs mainly in older people with the average age of 73. About 9 out of 10 people with this cancer are over the age of 55.
  • The 5-year relative survival rates for all stages of bladder cancer combined is 77%.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Blood in the urine. This is the most common symptom.
  • Pain during urination.
  • Having to urinate often.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Pelvic pain.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking
  • Arsenic in drinking water
  • Dietary supplements containing aristolochic acid
  • Diabetes medicine pioglitazone
  • Certain industrial chemicals, called aromatic amines, such as benzidine and beta-naphthylamine
new cases expected in 2023
deaths expected in 2023
average age of diagnosis

Bladder Cancer Awareness Month is recognized in May. To help accelerate cures please make a gift today.

Researchers Working on Bladder Cancer

James P. Basilion, Ph.D.
Case Western Reserve University
Teresa Davoli, Ph.D
New York University School of Medicine
J. Silvio Gutkind, Ph.D
University of California San Diego
John J. Letterio, M.D.
Case Western Reserve University
Isidore Rigoutsos, Ph.D.
Thomas Jefferson University Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center
Danny R. Welch
Danny R. Welch, Ph.D. University of Kansas Cancer Center

Related Updates

Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

It is a widely known fact that smoking directly correlates with lung cancer diagnoses, but did you know that smoking also accounts for nearly half of all bladder cancer diagnoses?  Though ranked as the sixth most common cancer in the United States, bladder cancer rarely draws much attention. In recognition of Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is putting bladder cancer in the limelight. First of all, what is it? The bladder is an organ located in the lower pelvis that holds urine and squeezes it out of the body. Bladder cancer occurs when the cells that make up the bladder start to grow out of control. Like most cancers, bladder cancer can spread to other parts of the body if it continues to advance.  Though there are five types of bladder cancer, one is far more common than the others: urothelial carcinoma. This cancer starts in the urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder. Each of the other types only makes up 1% or less of all bladder cancer diagnoses.  Who gets it? While anyone can get bladder cancer, men are four times more likely than women to be diagnosed, and black men are twice as likely as white men. The majority of bladder cancer patients are older than 55 years old, with the average age sitting at 73. Like many other types of cancer, certain behaviors put a person at a higher risk of developing the disease. Tobacco use is a major risk factor, with 47% of all diagnoses being linked to smoking. Exposure to certain chemicals may also increase one’s risk. These chemicals include those used in the textile, rubber, leather, dye, paint, and print industries and chemicals called aromatic amines.  A person’s medical history can also impact the likelihood of them developing bladder cancer. People with chronic bladder problems, such as bladder stones and infections, or who have had chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide face a higher risk of developing the disease. Additionally, those who have already had bladder cancer or who have Lynch Syndrome (and other genetic syndromes) have an increased risk.  What are bladder cancer symptoms? Nearly all signs of bladder cancer are associated with the urinary tract. The most notable signs are blood (or blood clots) in the urine and pain or a burning sensation during urination. Other bladder cancer symptoms include: frequent urination, feeling the need to urinate many times throughout the night, feeling the need to urinate without being able to pass urine, and lower back pain on one side of the body. Though these are clear signs of bladder cancer, they are often overlooked. If you experience any of these bladder cancer symptoms or other changes in their urination, it is important to speak to a doctor. How is bladder cancer diagnosed? There are three main tests that medical professionals may use to diagnose bladder cancer: urine tests, cystoscopy, and biopsy. If a doctor identified any amount of blood in the urine, they may test the urine for tumor cells using a urine test. Medical teams often use cystoscopy to confirm the diagnosis, which allows the doctor to see inside the body using a thin, [...]

Treating Cancer During COVID-19: Nicole’s Story

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees, preventing many events from taking place and closing the doors of uncountable businesses. People across the world were advised to stay inside and only leave the house for necessities. At first it was strange, uncomfortable, and scary. As time moved forward, many people accepted the new normal and may have even become a little bit lax on the restrictions. Thirty-four-year-old Nicole, however, has had to remain diligent to remain alive. “Life has been crazy and scary all at the same,” Nicole explained. “Cancer patients don’t have an immune system and we can get sick very easily.” In late 2018, Nicole had chronic and crippling lower back pain. She also began to notice blood in her urine and extremely swollen feet. When she began to experience incontinence, she knew something was seriously wrong. Once she was able to visit her doctor, she was informed that she had bladder cancer and would need chemotherapy three days a week for the next year of her life, followed by another six months of radiation treatments. “I lost all of my hair, even my eyebrows and eyelashes,” Nicole recalled. “I was throwing up all of the time and in severe pain. The doctor appointments were the most challenging part, though. Having a port put in and physically going through chemo was draining. I slept a lot.” When Nicole’s journey with cancer began in 2018, she quickly adapted the lives of her and her two sons. Her calendar was full of appointments and her cancer-related expenses were high. In fact, even with insurance, her medications cost upwards of $50,000. With the help of her grandparents, they navigated each challenge as a family and she entered partial remission. Just as the burden of the disease was about to lighten, COVID-19 threw additional challenges their way. “Being a single mom is hard in and of itself and adding cancer plus the stress of the pandemic has been beyond terrifying,” Nicole shared. “My anxiety has been at an all-time high.” Nicole had to continue treatment in the midst of a pandemic. She knew that if she came in contact with the virus, her chance of survival would be extremely low. In such a short time, Nicole has adapted to many versions of a ‘new normal’. Despite the many challenges she has faced, Nicole has remained full of faith, optimism, and strength. Though she is still receiving treatment, full remission is a bright light at the end of the long tunnel. “I’m currently having chemo once a week for a total of six weeks,” Nicole said. “Once I complete that, I will have another PET scan to see if the cancer is 100% gone. I’m very hopeful and optimistic that I will be in full remission soon!” The National Foundation for Cancer Research has compiled tools and resources for cancer patients regarding COVID-19. To learn more, please visit NFCR’s COVID-19 Resource Center. Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Vaccine Within Sight: COVID-19 Vaccine Entering Phase 3 Trials Personal Discipline and Perseverance Are Still the Best Practices to Prevent COVID-19 in 2020 […]