Bladder cancer begins in the layers of tissue that form the bladder, a hollow organ in the lower abdomen that holds urine (liquid waste) produced by the kidneys.
Urine passes from the kidneys into the bladder through a long tube called a ureter. During urination, the urine leaves the bladder—and the body—through a shorter tube called the urethra.
Bladder cancer forms when the building blocks of bladder tissue called "cells" begin growing abnormally.
- Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) (also called urothelial carcinoma) is the most common bladder cancer and affects the "transitional" cells that make up the inner lining of the bladder. More than 9 out of 10 Americans with bladder cancer have transitional cell cancer (TCC).
- Squamous cell carcinoma begins in thin, flat cells and causes only 1 to 2 percent of bladder cancers.
- Adenocarcinoma cancer occurs in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids. Only about 1 percent of bladder cancers are adenocarcinomas.
- Small cell carcinomas start in nerve-like cells known as neuroendocrine cells and cause less than 1 percent of bladder cancers.
These cancer types can grow in or spread to other parts of the urinary tract, such as the lining of the kidneys (called the renal pelvis), the ureters and the urethra. Patients diagnosed with bladder cancer should have their entire urinary tract checked for tumors. In rare cases, bladder cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
Common symptoms of bladder cancer include
- Blood in your urine (which may make your urine look rusty or darker red)
- An urgent need to empty your bladder
- Emptying your bladder more often than you usually do
- Feeling the need to empty your bladder without results
- Needing to strain (bear down) when emptying your bladder
- Feeling pain when emptying your bladder
These symptoms can be caused by bladder cancer or other health problems, such as an infection. Tell your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms so that you can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.