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Bladder cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on July 20, 2022.

Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the United States, with more than 80,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It’s more prevalent among men than women—men are four times more likely to develop bladder cancer—and mainly develops in adults older than age 55, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Most people are diagnosed around age 73.

No bladder cancer patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

At City of Hope, our cancer experts have extensive experience in diagnosing, staging and treating bladder cancer. You may undergo tests such as a cystoscopy, advanced genomic testing, biopsy and/or X-ray to determine the type and extent of the disease. Then, a multidisciplinary team of doctors and other clinicians will work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your needs and diagnosis, including techniques and strategies designed to help you manage the side effects of the disease and its treatment.

This overview will cover the basic facts about bladder cancer, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of bladder cancer and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion for bladder cancer, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What causes bladder cancer?

Who gets bladder cancer?

Genetic changes, or mutations, alter the process by which healthy cells grow, divide and die. When specific mutations occur in genes that control these processes, cells start dividing too fast or surviving longer than intended, and the cells become cancerous.

People may inherit mutations from their parents (inherited mutations) or acquire them over their lifetime (acquired mutations). Some inherited gene changes are known to raise the odds of getting bladder cancer, but most of the gene changes associated with bladder cancer are acquired, not inherited.

While the exact causes of bladder cancer are not always known, the most common risk factors are age and gender. Other risk factors include:

  • Family history
  • Inherited gene mutations or hereditary cancer syndrome
  • Smoking
  • Chronic bladder infections
  • Long-term use of catheters

Learn more about risk factors for bladder cancer

Jennifer Balzano

Jennifer B.

Bladder Cancer

"The most unexpected outcome from this experience is that I like myself better after going through cancer treatment. I am more patient and more caring. I was attentive to the needs of others before, but now I have so much more awareness. Having gone through a time of such need, now I want to be there for others even more. It is strange to say that I’m a better person for having had cancer, but it’s true.



Signs and symptoms of bladder cancer

Early-stage bladder cancer may not produce symptoms. But as the disease progresses, many symptoms are related to urination. It’s important for patients to make a doctor’s appointment if they experience:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent and/or painful urination or inability to urinate
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Urge to urinate when the bladder isn’t full

These symptoms may be caused by a problem other than bladder cancer, such as a urinary tract infection, bladder stones or an enlarged prostate.

Learn more about the symptoms of bladder cancer

Bladder cancer types

Diagnosing bladder cancer

If a patient is experiencing symptoms associated with bladder cancer, and other causes are ruled out, the doctor may recommend other tests. These diagnostic tests may include:

Learn more about diagnosing bladder cancer

Bladder cancer stages

Treatment options for bladder cancer

Multiple treatment options are used for bladder cancer, and which are appropriate for you depends on the stage and location of the disease. The approach to treating bladder cancer also depends on a patient’s age and healthy history. A multidisciplinary team of cancer experts will recommend treatment options based on each patient’s unique diagnosis, as well as any concerns about side effects and personal preferences. Common treatments for bladder cancer include:

In addition to these treatment options, new therapies are always being studied in clinical trials. Before proceeding with treatment, patients may want to ask their doctor whether enrolling in a clinical trial would be the right approach.

Learn more about treatments for bladder cancer

Bladder cancer diagnosis and treatment options at our Genitourinary Cancer Program