A bladder with a tumor

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer, the most common type of urinary tract cancer, affects men more frequently than women. The average five-year survival rate for all types of bladder cancer is 77%. However, if bladder cancer is found and treated before it spreads outside the bladder, the five-year survival rate is 96%. Risk factors include smoking, carcinogen exposure, chronic bladder infections, and hereditary predisposition. 

Bladder cancer is usually asymptomatic, but it can produce blood in the urine and pelvic discomfort. It is diagnosed with imaging tests, and the type, grade, and stage are determined based on a biopsy. Urothelial cell cancer, also called transitional epithelial cancer, is the most common type of bladder cancer. Treatment includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, sometimes with surgical restructuring of affected parts of the urinary system.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is bladder cancer curable?

    Bladder cancer can be curable, and the likelihood of cure is higher if it is diagnosed at an early stage. Without treatment, bladder cancer does not go away on its own, and treatment is associated with a 60 to 70% recurrence rate. Coping with bladder cancer after treatment includes follow up surveillance to identify signs of recurrence.

  • What causes bladder cancer?

    Bladder cancer occurs when cells in the bladder mutate (their genetic structure is altered) in a way that allows them to proliferate and invade other tissue. Risk factors include smoking, exposure to certain toxins (arsenic, textiles, paint material and more), hereditary predisposition, chronic inflammation of the urinary system, and chronic schistosomiasis infection.

  • What are the signs of bladder cancer?

    Often, bladder cancer doesn’t cause signs until late stages. The subtle effects that can occur at early or late stages of the disease are not specific to bladder cancer. Symptoms can include intermittent blood in the urine (it can be microscopic), pelvic discomfort, trouble urinating, urinary incontinence, fatigue, and bone pain.

  • What is the best treatment for bladder cancer?

    The treatment strategy for bladder cancer involves a combined approach. Surgery can remove the tumor, chemotherapy and immunotherapy are used to destroy cancer cells, and radiation shrinks the tumor. Surgery can involve resection of a small region of the bladder, or the whole bladder might need to be removed. If the bladder is removed, a pouch is surgically placed for urine collection.

Key Terms

The Stages of Bladder Cancer

Explore interactive models that show how bladder cancer can progress in the body, and the changes that occur in each stage of the disease.

A doctor discusses a new diagnosis with an older male patient.
What Is Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC)?
Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. Survival rates for bladder cancer. Updated January 8, 2020.

  2. American Cancer Society. Survival rates for bladder cancer. January 8, 2020. 

    1. Virani NA, Davis C, McKernan P, Hauser P, Hurst RE, Slaton J, Silvy RP, Resasco DE, Harrison RG. Phosphatidylserine targeted single-walled carbon nanotubes for photothermal ablation of bladder cancer. Nanotechnology. 2018 Jan 19;29(3):035101. doi: 10.1088/1361-6528/aa9c0c. PMID: 29160225.

  3. American Cancer Society. What is bladder cancer? January 30, 2919

  4. Han E, Nguyen L, Sirls L, Peters K. Current best practice management of interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome. Ther Adv Urol. 2018 Mar 19;10(7):197-211. doi: 10.1177/1756287218761574. PMID: 30034539; PMCID: PMC6048622.

  5. Bolenz C, Schröppel B, Eisenhardt A, Schmitz-Dräger BJ, Grimm MO. The investigation of hematuria. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2018 Nov 30;115(48):801-807. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2018.0801. PMID: 30642428; PMCID: PMC6365675.

  6. Wang P, Zang S, Li G, Qu W, Li S, Qiao Q, Jiang Y. The role of surgery on the primary tumor site in bladder cancer with distant metastasis: significance of histology type and metastatic pattern. Cancer Med. 2020 Oct 27. doi: 10.1002/cam4.3560. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33107706.

  7. Collins K, Hwang M, Hamza A, Rao P. Prevalence of high-risk human papillomavirus in primary squamous cell carcinoma of urinary bladder. Pathol Res Pract. 2020 Sep;216(9):153084. doi: 10.1016/j.prp.2020.153084. Epub 2020 Jun 23. PMID: 32825952.

  8. Cancer.net. Bladder cancer: Introduction. May 2019

  9. Jhang JF, Lin TY, Ho HC, Jiang YH, Hsu YH, Birder LA, Kuo HC. Deficits of urothelial cell proliferation, cytoskeleton, and barrier function protein expressions in patients with recurrent and persistent urinary tract infections. Low Urin Tract Symptoms. 2020 Nov 1. doi: 10.1111/luts.12351. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33135375.