Bladder cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the bladder. There are three types of bladder cancer.

  • Transitional cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in cells that line the inside of the bladder. Most bladder cancers arise in the transitional cells.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells. These are thin, flat cells that normally are not in the bladder but can form due to certain infections or long term irritation of the bladder from stones or indwelling urinary catheters.
  • Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Glandular cells in the lining of the bladder produce and release fluids such as mucus.

What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?

Blood in the urine (hematuria) is the most common symptom. It eventually occurs in nearly all cases of bladder cancer and is generally described as “painless”. Although the blood may be visible during urination, in most cases, it is invisible except under a microscope. In these, the blood is usually discovered when analyzing a urine sample as part of a routine examination. Blood in the urine, similar to blood in the stool or coughing up blood, is a potential warning sign of cancer, and should not be ignored.

Hematuria does not by itself indicate or confirm the presence of bladder cancer. Blood in the urine has many possible causes. For example, it may result from a urinary tract infection or kidney stones rather than from cancer. It is important to note that hematuria, particularly microscopic, might be entirely normal for some individuals. A diagnostic investigation is necessary to determine whether bladder cancer is present.

Other symptoms of bladder cancer may include frequent urination and pain upon urination (dysuria). Such “irritative” symptoms are less common. When present in the absence of a urinary infection (which may have similar or identical symptoms) exclusion of a bladder cancer as the possible cause is mandatory.