Bladder Cancer

What is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer occurs when malignant (cancerous) cells grow in the bladder tissues. In recent decades, bladder cancer has been steadily increasing. Despite this, doctors are making progress with treatment, and survival rates are improving.

There are three types of bladder cancer that develop from the cells that line the bladder. These are named after the type of cells that become cancerous:

1. Transitional Cell Carcinoma: Also known as urothelial carcinoma, this cancer begins in cells in the outermost layer of the bladder.

2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This cancer occurs when thin, flat cells, known as squamous cells, form in the bladder after long-term irritation or infection.

3. Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma is formed from glandular (secretory) cells that develop in the bladder after a prolonged period of inflammation and irritation.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms or signs of bladder cancer can include those listed below. Occasionally, bladder cancer patients do not have any of these symptoms: 

  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Painful urination
  • Urinary tract infections and UTI-like symptoms
  • Kidney stones
  • Inability to fully empty bladder
  • Lower back pain on one side of the body

Bladder Cancer Causes and Prevention

Smoking or tobacco use

Cigarette smoking is the most common risk factor, although smoking cigars and pipes can also raise your risk of bladder cancer. It is estimated that smokers are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than nonsmokers.

Exposure to industrial chemicals

The use of specific chemicals in the textile, rubber, leather, dye, paint, and print industries, certain naturally occurring chemicals, and certain chemicals called aromatic amines can also increase the chance of developing bladder cancer.

Chronic bladder infections

A history of chronic bladder infections may sometimes lead to bladder cancer. The repeated irritation and inflammation of the organ can result in the growth of cancerous cells.

Insufficient hydration

Drinking plenty of water helps keep your bladder hydrated to prevent cancerous cancer cells from developing and spreading in the bladder. Drinking the recommended amount of water for your body weight can help with staying hydrated.

Birth defects of the bladder

Bladder exstrophy is a rare genetic disorder associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. During the development of the fetus, the bladder grows outside the body.

History of bladder cancer in your family

Individuals with a history of bladder cancer in their family should be mindful of the possibility of contracting it.

Bladder Cancer Treatment

Transurethral resection of the bladder (TURBT) is the first step in treating bladder cancer when a cystoscope shows abnormal growth on the urothelium or lamina propria. A pathologist can then determine the tumor’s grade and stage, which is important for further treatment.

To prevent tumor recurrences after TURBT, intravesical chemotherapy or intravesical immunotherapy is often used. The term intravesical simply means “inside the bladder”. Through catheters, therapeutic agents (such as thiotepa, doxorubicin, mitomycin C, or BCG) are placed directly into the bladder.

Once the tumor has been removed, it is critical to have periodic cystoscopies to detect recurrences of the tumor. For the first one to two years, this is done quarterly, which can then be reduced to twice a year or even once a year if there are no recurrences.

A number of our providers at the Urology Specialists of the Carolinas specialize in bladder cancer treatment. Meet our expert team of physicians:


Detecting bladder cancer early is sometimes possible, and when it is, it can usually be treated very successfully. Screening is an important part of early detection but it is typically only performed for patients who have a high risk of developing bladder cancer, for example those with a history of smoking or exposure to chemicals. Therefore, if you have any of the above risk factors, reach out to a urologist to schedule a screening.

This form of cancer is graded using the TNM system; tumor, nodes, and metastasis. Most cancerous growths begin as tumors, which, if not treated in time, can spread to lymph nodes and then to other organs.

Although kidney stones aren’t a direct cause of bladder cancer, those with a history of getting them may be at greater risk. As with chronic bladder infections, recurring kidney stones cause inflammation and infection that can accelerate the onset of bladder cancer.

Bladder Cancer Management at The Urology Specialists of The Carolinas

Cancer of the bladder is a common type in the United States, and everyone should be aware of its symptoms. Any concerns you might have should also be discussed with your doctor, particularly if you notice any common symptoms. Schedule an appointment at one of our locations to discuss your symptoms and treatment options.


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