The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower part of the abdomen that stores
urine until it is passed out of the body.
The most common type of bladder cancer is transitional cell carcinoma,
which begins in urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder.
Urothelial cells are transitional cells, which are able to change shape
and stretch when the bladder is full. This type of cancer is also called
urothelial carcinoma. Other types of bladder cancer include squamous cell
carcinoma (cancer that begins in thin, flat cells lining the bladder)
and adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that make and release
mucus and other fluids).
People who smoke have an increased risk of bladder cancer. Being exposed
to certain chemicals and having chronic bladder infections can also increase
the risk of bladder cancer.
The most common sign of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Bladder cancer
is often diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is easier to treat.
Key points to consider
- Bladder cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the
tissues of the bladder.
- Smoking can affect the risk of bladder cancer.
- Signs and symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine and pain
- Tests that examine the urine and bladder are used to help detect (find)
and diagnose bladder cancer.
- Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
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 to store urine made by the kidneys. There are two kidneys,
one on each side of the backbone, above the waist. Tiny tubules in the
kidneys filter and clean the blood. They take out waste products and make
urine. The urine passes from each kidney through a long tube called a
ureter into the bladder. The bladder holds the urine until it passes through
the urethra and leaves the body.
There are three types of bladder cancer that begin in cells in the lining
of the bladder. These cancers are named for the type of cells that become
- Transitional cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in cells in the innermost
tissue layer of the bladder. These cells are able to stretch when the
bladder is full and shrink when it is emptied. Most bladder cancers begin
in the transitional cells. Transitional cell carcinoma can be low-grade
- Low-grade transitional cell carcinoma often recurs (comes back) after treatment,
but rarely spreads into the muscle layer of the bladder or to other parts
of the body.
- High-grade transitional cell carcinoma often recurs (comes back) after
treatment and often spreads into the muscle layer of the bladder, to other
parts of the body, and to lymph nodes. Almost all deaths from bladder
cancer are due to high-grade disease.
Cancer that is in the lining of the bladder is called superficial bladder
cancer. Cancer that has spread through the lining of the bladder and invades
the muscle wall of the bladder or has spread to nearby organs and lymph
nodes is called invasive bladder cancer.
Risk factors for bladder cancer include:
- Using tobacco, especially smoking cigarettes.
- Having a family history of bladder cancer.
- Having certain changes in the genes that are linked to bladder cancer.
- Being exposed to paints, dyes, metals, or petroleum products in the workplace.
- Past treatment with radiation therapy to the pelvis or with certain anticancer
drugs, such as cyclophosphamide or ifosfamide.
- Taking Aristolochia fangchi, a Chinese herb.
- Drinking water from a well that has high levels of arsenic.
- Drinking water that has been treated with chlorine.
- Having a history of bladder infections, including bladder infections caused
by Schistosoma haematobium.
- Using urinary catheters for a long time.
- Older age is a risk factor for most cancers. The chance of getting cancer
increases as you get older.
These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by bladder cancer or by
other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Blood in the urine (slightly rusty to bright red in color).
- Frequent urination.
- Pain during urination.
- Lower back pain.
Source: National Cancer Institute
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