Bladder cancer

Each year about 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with bladder cancer. Of these, 8 out of 10 (80%) are diagnosed with early bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer becomes more common as people get older and smoking is one of the most common causes.

Types of bladder cancer

Bladder cancer may appear in different forms.

  • Transitional cell bladder cancer (TCC)

TCC, also known as urothelial carcinoma, is the most common type of bladder cancer. The cancer starts in cells, called transitional cells, in the bladder lining (urothelium).

Some bladder cancers begin as an invasive tumour growing into the muscle wall of the bladder. Others begin at a non-invasive stage that involves only the inner lining of the bladder - this is early (superficial) bladder cancer. Some non-invasive cancers develop into invasive bladder cancer.

  • Carcinoma in situ (CIS)

This is a type of non-invasive bladder cancer that appears as a flat, red area in the bladder. CIS can grow quickly, and if it's not treated effectively, there's a high risk that CIS will develop into an invasive bladder cancer.

  • Papillary cancer

Papillary bladder cancer is a form of early bladder cancer. It appears as mushroom-like growths or is leaf-shaped like seaweed (fronds). Some people may have both papillary cancer and CIS.

  • Rarer types of bladder cancer

These include squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell cancers start from another type of cell in the bladder lining. Adenocarcinoma starts from glandular cells. Both of these types of bladder cancer are usually invasive.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of bladder cancer are blood in the urine, urinary symptoms and pain in the lower part of the tummy or back.

  • Blood in the urine (haematuria)

This is the most common symptom of bladder cancer. It can happen suddenly and may come and go. Your urine may look pink, red or occasionally brown, or you may see streaks or clots of blood in it.

If you see blood in your urine, it's very important to get it checked by your GP straight away.

Sometimes, blood in the urine can't be seen and is picked up in a simple urine test. This is called non-visible or microscopic haematuria. If you have urinary symptoms (see below), doctors usually check your urine for non-visible blood..

  • Urinary symptoms

Occasionally, people with non-invasive bladder cancer experience a burning feeling when they pass urine or feel the need to pass urine more often or urgently. These symptoms are usually caused by infection rather than cancer. But some people may need more tests so a diagnosis can be made.

  • Pain in the lower part of the tummy or back

This is less common, but it may occur in some people.

  • These symptoms aren't necessarily caused by cancer

There are different causes for the above symptoms, such as infection or stones in the bladder or kidney.

But if you have any of these symptoms, it's important to get them checked by your GP. The earlier bladder cancer is diagnosed, the more likely it is to be cured.

*Information provided by Macmillan cancer support

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