What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer starts as a formation of cancer cells in the lining of urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys where it’s produced to the bladder where it’s stored), bladder and urethra. Bladder cancer often detected by blood in the urine, but there are non-cancerous conditions that also cause blood in the urine. If it persists, speak with your provider.

More information about bladder cancer (Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network)

What bladder cancer is not

Bladder cancer should not be confused with other genitourinary cancers such as prostate, kidney, testicular, adrenal, penile, or urethral because these cancers can have different symptoms, outlooks, and treatments.

Common types of bladder cancer

If you have bladder cancer it's almost certain to be a urothelial carcinoma. These cancers start in the urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder.

Urothelial cells also line other parts of the urinary tract, including part of the kidney, the ureters, and the urethra. People with bladder cancer sometimes have tumors in these places, too, so all of the urinary tract needs to be checked for tumors.


It’s possible that you could have one or more of the following tests (but not all of these may apply to your condition):

  • Cystoscopy (camera in the bladder) - Cystoscopy is a procedure used to examine the lining of your bladder and the tube that carries urine out of your body (urethra). A hollow tube equipped with a lens called a cystoscope is inserted into the bladder through the urethra.
  • CT scan (computed tomography scan) - A CT scan is a series of X-ray pictures of your bladder put together by a computer to give doctors a detailed picture.
  • Cystoscopic biopsy - This type of biopsy is specific to bladder tumors. A small camera is inserted into the bladder through the urethra and samples are taken from inside the bladder.
  • Urine tests - Urine tests are a noninvasive method of assessing biomarkers in urine. Changes in biomarkers could indicate a need for further testing.
  • Meeting with your surgeon, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist


Depending on your unique set of conditions, your treatment could include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of these treatments. Immunotherapy is also a treatment available for bladder cancer. Immunotherapy involves treatments to help the body’s own immune system kill the tumor cells.

Your full team of care providers will work closely together to review your diagnostic tests, identify the best course of treatment particular to you, and help you understand your diagnosis and what to expect with any treatment you have.