Bladder cancer is when cells in the lining of your bladder start to grow abnormally and multiply in an uncontrolled way to form a tumour.
Around 70% of cases of bladder cancer are non-muscle-invasive (superficial), which means the cancerous cells have stayed in the lining of your bladder. At this stage, half of people diagnosed with non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer have a good chance of successfully managing it with regular surveillance and treatment for 10 years or more.
Other bladder cancer tumours grow into the muscle wall of the bladder – this is called invasive bladder cancer.
Sometimes bladder cancer spreads to other parts of the body – this is called advanced or metastatic bladder cancer.
There's no national screening programme in the UK for bladder cancer, but earlier detection can improve your prognosis.
The main bladder cancer symptom is blood in your urine (pee) which is usually bright red but not painful.
It’s important to see your GP if you notice blood in your urine. Even if it’s not there all the time, it’s important to find out the cause.
Other bladder cancer symptoms include:
However, these are often symptoms of other conditions, such as a bladder infection or enlarged prostate.
If you have any of these symptoms you should see your GP. They will:
You may be referred to a urologist, a consultant specialising in the urinary system. Bladder cancer is usually diagnosed with a cystoscopy – a procedure to look inside your bladder. This may also be with a biopsy and is performed under a local or general anaesthetic.
Other diagnostic tests are:
If you’re diagnosed with bladder cancer, your doctor will tell you the type, stage and the grade of your cancer. They'll also tell you if there's any metastasis (spreading) to other parts of your body. This is important to help them decide the most effective treatment options for you.
Bladder cancer is usually diagnosed in people over 60. It's also more common in men than women.
There are other risk factors that increase your risk of developing bladder cancer. These are:
Treatment depends on the type of bladder cancer, the stage and the grade. Generally, treatments offered will be:
Bladder cancer sometimes recurs in the months and years following treatment so you’ll need regular follow-up appointments and cystoscopies.