What to Know About Bladder Cancer

Each May, we recognize Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, a time to draw attention to bladder cancer and promote bladder health. The bladder is a hollow, balloon-shaped organ that plays a pivotal role in the urinary tract and pelvic floor function. Sitting in the lower part of the abdomen, the bladder stores and empties urine. According to the American Cancer Society, bladder cancer is more common among older people, with the average age of diagnosis being 73. Bladder cancer is also more commonly diagnosed in men than women. Bladder cancer typically occurs when cells in the bladder grow out of control, which can cause a tumor and spread to other parts of the body. Understanding the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer is key for early detection. 

Signs and Symptoms

These signs and symptoms can also be associated with bladder stones, an overactive bladder, urinary tract infection (UTI), or an enlarged prostate in men. As always, seeing a doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms is important. Bladder cancer can often be caught at its earliest when it’s most treatable. 

  • Frequent urination
  • ​​Blood or blood clots in the urine
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • An urge to urinate frequently, usually occurs throughout the night
  • An urge to urinate, but not able to pass urine
  • Lower back pain on one side of the body
  • Having trouble urinating or having a weak urine stream

Types of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and the eighth most common cancer in women, and it consists of different forms including urothelial carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and small cell carcinoma. Bladder cancer is very treatable when found early. Treatment methods include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. 

Urothelial Carcinoma 

The most common type of bladder cancer is urothelial carcinoma, also known as transitional cell carcinoma. It starts in the urothelial cells that line the bladder, urethra, ureters, renal pelvis, and other urinary tract organs. 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a less common form of cancer that begins in the squamous cells, which are flat cells that line the bladder. It can occur due to chronic irritation and swelling in the bladder lining. 


Adenocarcinoma is a rare cancer that begins in gland-forming cells found in the bladder lining. 

Small Cell Carcinoma

Small cell carcinoma of the bladder is a rare and very aggressive cancer that starts in the neuroendocrine cells.  


Cancer.Net: Bladder Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

American Cancer Society: What Is Bladder Cancer?

NIH: National Cancer Institute: What is Bladder Cancer


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