Bladder Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Bladder cancer is common among men more than in women. One of the primary symptoms of bladder cancer the presence of blood in the urine but no pain is felt while urinating. It is regarded as the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer among veterans affairs (VA) Health system patients. It was found out that more than 1 in 10 military service members who were injured in Afghanistan and Iraq suffers from urotrauma injuries (damage in the reproductive organs or urinary tract)

The bladder is connected to the kidneys by two ureters; the bladder in our body is well-designed to store urine and it has a capacity to hold one-one half to two cups of urine (around 400ml to 500ml). It is layered with transitional epithelial cells. Did you know? The kidney generates urine in our body in every 10 to 15 seconds.

What is Bladder Cancer and its Symptoms?

A hollow, muscular organ that is present in the lower abdomen of both male and female body where urine is stored is called the bladder. The size of a bladder can be compared to the pear. Several conditions can arise in bladder affecting its functioning. Some of the common conditions are cystitis, urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, interstitial cystitis and bladder cancer.

The bladder expands and contracts when it is filled and empties. The nerves present in the bladder automatically send the signal and lets the person know whenever the bladder requires to get emptied. At times due to certain dysfunction, the single sent by the bladder may not work and the urine is left behind. In such a condition the urine can cause infection. The colour of the urine also indicates a lot of things about health. If a person is experiencing dark or honey-coloured urine it indicated that he/she is not drinking enough amount of water. In cases where the urine is brown-coloured urine, there could be a serious health issue.

Have you heard of pink urine? Yes, some people do experience it where the urine indicates the presence of blood. In such a situation you must immediately rush to the doctor as it is a matter of concern. Healthy urine is light yellow coloured.

Frequent urination or at times painful urination can be the early symptoms of bladder cancer. Bladder cancer occurs when the bladder cells become abnormal and grow out of proportion. Over time these damage cells further develop to a tumour. In the later stages of bladder cancer, it can spread to the lymph nodes or any other organs. In rare cases, it can get to the distant body parts like the liver, bones or lungs.

Unlike many other deadly diseases, bladder cancer is highly treatable and patients are seen to resume their day to day life as before. Treatment options such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation effectively have cured bladder cancer.

Symptoms of bladder cancer

The liquid waste in our body which is known as urea enters the bladder through two long tubes from the kidney-ureters, the urea finally reaches the bladder. The urinary system helps to maintain the balance between potassium, sodium, and water. Any kind of dysfunction in the mechanism can affect the body drastically. Some of the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer are-

  • Presence of flood in urine (hematuria)- if you have hematuria, the urine will appear cola coloured or bright red. At times the urine may appear different but the presence of blood can only be well detected during a microscopic examination.
  • Experiencing pain while urinating
  • Pain in the pelvic
  • Back pain
  • Unintentional urination which includes leaking of urine while lifting, exercising or coughing
  • Sudden urge to urinate
  • Experiencing leakage of urine without any urge
  • Wetting bed while sleeping (adults)
  • Frequent urination

Urination is frequent as 8 times every 24 hours or 10 to 12 bathroom-breaks a day is regarded as normal.

Seek medical help if-

  • You are not able to urinate properly
  • Urinating more than 8 times a day
  • Witnessing presence of blood or sudden changes in the colour of the urine
  • Pain while urinating

If you feel discomfort or if you tend to wake up two to three times at night to go to the bathroom; reach out to the doctor and consult about the symptoms and difficulties. As the famous quote goes, “Precaution is better than cure”.

Causes of bladder cancer

Bladder cancer begins when the cells in the bladder multiply at an abnormal ratio. Rather than following the grow and divide pattern the cells develop mutation (the cells grows out of proportion and die) that eventually leads to bladder cancer.

One of the most common kinds of bladder cancer is called transitional cell carcinoma or urothelial carcinoma. Although the exact cause of bladder cancer has not been found yet smoking is known to be one of the major risk factors of bladder cancer. The good news is bladder cancer in maximum patients is detected at an early stage thus making the treatment procedure more effective. List of some of the causes of bladder cancer are-

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Diabetes
  • Tobacco consumption or smoking
  • Previous exposure to radiation
  • Parasite infection
  • Workplace exposure (textile, paint, leather, rubber and plastic industries)
  • Irritation in the lining of the bladder (chronic)

All the factors mentioned above don’t always lead to bladder cancer; sometimes people with no such causes might also develop it.

Types of bladder cancer

There are three types of bladder cancer-

  • Urothelial carcinoma-occurs in the cells that line the bladder and it has been reported as of one the most common type of bladder cancer in the United States
  • Squamous cell carcinoma-it is linked with chronic irritation in the bladder or any kind of infection (parasite infection)
  • Adenocarcinoma-starts in the cells that comprises of mucus-secreting glands in the bladder

Diagnosis of bladder cancer

Diagnosis of bladder cancer involves a proper examination of the physical self and medical history of the patient. If the patient reaches out to a healthcare provider, they may further refer the patient to the urologist for better diagnosis. Some of the tests that are recommended for a suspected patient are-

  • Blood test- this test is carried out to confirm the functioning status of the kidney and liver
  • Urine cytology-colour and content of the urine is noted along with the body cells in a microscope to find the presence of cancer cells
  • Cystoscopy-a thin tube is used that has a light and camera attached to it, which is passed through the urethra to the bladder. This tube helps the doctor to properly examine the bladder cavity. A sample of the tissue is collected by using a flexible cystoscope and local anaesthesia; the sample is then sent to the laboratory to determine the stage of cancer.
  • Rigid cystoscopy-rigid cystoscopy is a much bigger surgical instrument that enables transurethral resection of bladder tumour, it is a procedure in which the doctor looks inside the bladder, takes samples of the tumour formed and resects.
  • Biopsy-a small section of the detected tumour is collected

Imaging test includes-

  • Retrograde pyelogram- X-ray is used in this test to look at the bladder, kidneys, and ureters, it is conducted during cystoscopy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-a powerful magnetic field is used combined with radio waves and computer screening to produce clear and distinct images of the bladder or any inside part of the body.

Grading and staging are two steps to measure how much cancer has spread to other areas of the body and how aggressive (mutation rate) the cancer cells are.

All these test results and screening are done in order to closely study the stage of cancer and then proceed with the required treatments

What are the stages of bladder cancer?

The stages of bladder cancer are as follows-

  • Ta-at this stage the tumour appears in the bladder lining and does not reach to any of the layers of the bladder
  • Tis- cancer looks like a flat reddish velvety patch on the bladder lining
  • T1-the tumour enters the bladder lining (second layer) but does not affect the muscle layer
  • T2- the muscle layers gets attack at this stage
  • T3-the tissues surrounding the bladder are affected which mainly composes of fat
  • T4-it is one of the crucial stages; at this stage, the tumour spreads to the nearby areas of the bladder. In males, it is the prostate while in females it’s the vagina.

Bladder cancer is also classified based on the appearance-

Low-grade bladder tumour-these cancer cells are closer in appearance and are slow in growth. The better side of it is that it rarely enters the muscular wall of the bladder

High-grade bladder tumour-this kind of tumour has cancer cells that are abnormal in appearance and tends to grow at a rapid speed. Such a tumour invades the muscular wall of the bladder, other organs and tissues.

Treatment of bladder cancer

The treatment method of bladder cancer is determined by the stage of cancer, type of cancer, and the grade of cancer. Treatment method of bladder cancer includes-

  • Chemotherapy-tumours are killed that is confined to the lining of the bladder
  • Surgery-it removes cancer-causing tissues
  • Radiation therapy-destroys cancer-causing cells; it is an option for patients who can’t undergo surgery or one who doesn’t wish to get it.
  • Reconstruction- a new path is created for the urine to pass out of the body after the removal of the bladder.
  • Immunotherapy- uses the help of the immune system to fight against the cancer cells by the trigger method, either in the body or in the bladder.


Till date, no researchers have found out the exact prevention guidelines to keep away bladder cancer but certain things are safe to be avoided and reduce the risk level-

  • Quit smoking-smoking is hugely responsible for causing cancer, keep away from such toxic habits and try to follow a healthy lifestyle
  • Take measures while working in a toxic environment if you work in any industry that requires you to work with chemicals, be cautious and follow the safety measures.
  • Choose your diet and eating habits- eat a rich variety of ingredients, mainly fruits that contain antioxidants properties and green leafy vegetables that help to reduce the risk of cancer.


Que 1. How long will you live if you have bladder cancer?

Ans- The average duration of survival is 5 years for bladder cancer.

Que 2. Can you have bladder cancer for years and not know it?

Ans- Yes, a person may not know for a year or more that he/she is suffering from bladder cancer.

Que 3. Can you smell bladder cancer?

Ans- Normally a person can’t smell or detect from the odour of urine but medical devices can.

Que 4. Do you lose weight with bladder cancer?

Ans- You might lose weight if cancer has spread to other parts of the body

Que 5. Can you have bladder cancer with no blood in urine?

Ans- Yes, 60% of the bladder cancer cases have no findings of blood in their urine.

Que 6. Does bladder cancer spread quickly?

Ans- High-grade bladder cancer is likely to develop and spread quickly. It can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Que 7. What age does bladder cancer occurs?

Ans- People over the age of 55 to 73 years can develop bladder cancer.

Que 8. Should you drink alcohol if you have bladder cancer?

Ans- No, it will worsen the condition and will lead to further complications.

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