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Health Journey Support | Understanding Bladder Cancer

The most common type of bladder cancer, called urothelial carcinoma or transitional cell carcinoma, begins in the tissue lining the inside of your bladder. This brochure will help you understand more about bladder cancer and how it affects your body.

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Understanding Bladder Cancer

You or someone you care about may have been diagnosed with bladder cancer. This brochure will help you understand more about bladder cancer and how it affects your body.

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Anatomy of the Bladder

Your bladder is a hollow, muscular organ. It stores urine made by your kidneys. From the kidneys, urine travels through tubes, called ureters, to reach your bladder.

Understanding Bladder Cancer Br

From the bladder, urine passes out of your body through another tube, called the urethra.

Understanding Bladder Cancer Br

The tissue lining the inside of your bladder is called urothelium or transitional epithelium.

How Bladder Cancer Begins and Spreads

The most common type of bladder cancer, called urothelial carcinoma or transitional cell carcinoma, begins in the transitional epithelium.

Here, normal cells change into abnormal cells, called cancer cells. Over time, these cells can grow out of control and form a cluster, called a tumor.

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There are two types of urothelial carcinomas or transitional cell carcinomas, based on how they grow.

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A papillary carcinoma grows in toward the hollow center of the bladder.

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A flat carcinoma does not grow in toward the center. Flat tumors are much less common. But, they are more likely to spread deeper into the bladder wall.

Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer may have the following symptoms:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Feeling an urgent need to urinate
  • Pain while urinating
  • Having to urinate more often
  • Lower back pain

It's important to know that other health problems may cause these symptoms as well.

Bladder Cancer Staging

Cancer staging is the process where your doctor figures out if your cancer has spread, and if so, how far.

Stage 0 refers to either a papillary carcinoma or flat carcinoma in situ that is only on the surface of the inner lining of your bladder. This means it hasn't spread into your bladder wall.

In stage I, the tumor has grown deeper into the lining, but not into the muscle layer.

In stage II, the tumor has invaded the muscle layer.

In stage III, the tumor has grown through the muscle layer of your bladder wall and may have spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes.

In stage IV, the tumor has spread to any of the following:

  • The wall of your pelvis or abdomen
  • At least one set of distant lymph nodes
  • A distant organ, such as your liver or lungs

Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

A number of risk factors may raise your risk of bladder cancer. The most important risk factor is smoking. Other risk factors include:

  • Having a personal or family history of bladder cancer
  • Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace
  • Past cancer treatments, such as radiation or anticancer drugs
  • Drinking water that contains high levels of arsenic
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As you deal with a diagnosis of bladder cancer, continue to talk to your doctor and your cancer care team.

The information in this handout has been created and peer reviewed by graduate-level medical illustrators, followed by reviews from medical subject experts, either physicians or PhDs on the Nucleus Medical Review Board, to ensure medical accuracy and audience level appropriateness.

The handout is intended to supplement the information you receive from your healthcare provider and should never be considered personal medical advice. Always contact your healthcare provider with health questions and concerns.