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Bladder Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the bladder (the organ that stores urine).

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Bladder Cancer

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. The bladder stores urine until it is passed out of the body. Urine is the liquid waste that is made by the kidneys when they clean the blood. The urine passes from the two kidneys into the bladder through two tubes called ureters. When the bladder is emptied during urination, the urine goes from the bladder to the outside of the body through another tube called the urethra.

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 malignant (cancerous):

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What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Venous Thromboembolism: Reducing the Risk of Venous Thromboembolism (Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism) in Patients Admitted to Hospital

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a term used to include the formation of a blood clot (a thrombus) in a vein which may dislodge from its site of origin to travel in the blood, a phenomenon called embolism. A thrombus most commonly occurs in the deep veins of the legs; this is called deep vein thrombosis. A dislodged thrombus that travels to the lungs is known as a pulmonary embolism.

Local treatment with Bacillus Calmette‐Guérin following surgery for superficial bladder cancer reduces the risk of the cancer returning.

Worldwide, bladder cancer is common in both men and women. In most cases, the cancer occurs in the superficial layers of the bladder and can be surgically removed. However, in many people the cancer returns. Drugs placed directly into the bladder tissue following surgery are therefore often used to try to prevent the cancer recurring. Bacillus Calmette‐Guérin (BCG) is a live attenuated bacterium used for immunization against tuberculosis, and is safe and effective for that purpose; it has also been licensed by the US FDA and other national regulatory agencies for use in superficial bladder‐cancer treatment. The review found that BCG treatment was effective in preventing cancer recurrence following surgery. Further studies into making treatment more effective are needed.

Screening Adults for Bladder Cancer: Update of the 2004 Evidence Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force [Internet]

Bladder cancer is one of the 10 most frequently diagnosed cancers. Screening could identify high-grade bladder cancer at earlier stages, when it may be more easily and effectively treated.

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Summaries for consumers

Local treatment with Bacillus Calmette‐Guérin following surgery for superficial bladder cancer reduces the risk of the cancer returning.

Worldwide, bladder cancer is common in both men and women. In most cases, the cancer occurs in the superficial layers of the bladder and can be surgically removed. However, in many people the cancer returns. Drugs placed directly into the bladder tissue following surgery are therefore often used to try to prevent the cancer recurring. Bacillus Calmette‐Guérin (BCG) is a live attenuated bacterium used for immunization against tuberculosis, and is safe and effective for that purpose; it has also been licensed by the US FDA and other national regulatory agencies for use in superficial bladder‐cancer treatment. The review found that BCG treatment was effective in preventing cancer recurrence following surgery. Further studies into making treatment more effective are needed.

Major bladder surgery improves chances of survival for people with bladder cancer that has invaded the muscle, but more studies are needed

Bladder cancer is common worldwide. In rare cases, cancer spreads to the bladder muscle. A combination of surgery and radiation therapy (radiotherapy) is used to try to treat bladder cancer that has invaded the muscle. One treatment involves some radiotherapy, followed by major surgery to remove the bladder. Another treatment uses intensive radiotherapy, followed by smaller surgery if needed. However, it is not clear which treatment offers people the best chance of survival. The review found that survival was better in people receiving major surgery, compared with major radiotherapy although recent surgical and radiotherapy advances have not yet been studied.

Adding chemotherapy after surgery or radiotherapy in patients with invasive bladder cancer

Standard treatments for invasive bladder cancer are either surgery (to remove the bladder and surrounding tissues) or radiotherapy (to kill the cancer cells). This review suggested that 54 out of every 100 patients who had chemotherapy after surgery were alive after three years, compared to 45 out of every 100 patients who received only surgery. Although these results are encouraging, there are not enough trials or patients for these results to be completely reliable. More randomised trials are needed. This review should encourage greater participation in ongoing randomised trials.

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Terms to know

Adenocarcinoma
Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Glandular cells are found in tissue that lines certain internal organs and makes and releases substances in the body, such as mucus, digestive juices, or other fluids. Most cancers of the breast, pancreas, lung, prostate, and colon are adenocarcinomas.
Bladder
The organ that stores urine.
Carcinoma
Carcinoma is a cancer found in body tissues that cover or line surfaces of organs, glands, or body structures.
Kidney
One of a pair of organs in the abdomen. The kidneys remove waste and extra water from the blood (as urine) and help keep chemicals (such as sodium, potassium, and calcium) balanced in the body. The kidneys also make hormones that help control blood pressure and stimulate bone marrow to make red blood cells.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Cancer that begins in squamous cells. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales, and are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts.
Tumor (Neoplasm)
An abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Neoplasms may be benign (not cancer), or malignant (cancer). Also called tumor.
Ureter
The tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.
Urethra
The tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
Urine
Liquid waste product filtered from the blood by the kidneys, stored in the bladder, and expelled from the body by the act of urinating.

More about Bladder Cancer

Photo of an adult

Also called: Malignant tumour of the urinary bladder, Malignant tumor of the urinary bladder, Malignant neoplasm of the urinary bladder

Other terms to know: See all 9
Adenocarcinoma, Bladder, Carcinoma

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