Bladder Cancer Awareness Month: What You Need To Know

By Jane Meggitt

Each May, the World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition hosts Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. As with many cancers, early detection of bladder cancer is critical. The good news is that early stage bladder cancer is very treatable.

Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

This year’s WBCPC theme for Bladder Cancer Prevention Awareness Month is “Have you ever heard about bladder cancer?” It’s a simple but effective message. The more people who are aware of bladder cancer symptoms, the more likely they are to schedule an appointment with their doctor and receive prompt care.

Approximately 80,000 Americans receive a bladder cancer diagnosis annually. According to the Cleveland Clinic, more than 90% of bladder cancers start in the cells making up the organ’s innermost lining. There are three types of bladder cancer:

  • Urothelial carcinoma —The overwhelming majority of bladder cancers fall into this category. Formerly known as transitional cell carcinoma, this cancer occurs in the cells lining the bladder. Urothelial cells also line the urethra and ureters, where cancer can also form.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma — Roughly 5% of bladder cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These flat, thin cells line the urethra. This type of bladder cancer generally forms after a long period of bladder inflammation.
  • Adenocarcinoma — This rare cancer accounts for just 1% of bladder cancers. It originates in the bladder lining’s glandular cells.

Risk Factors

According to scientific research, men are 3–4 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women. While it is the fourth most common cancer in men, it does not rank in the top 10 for women.

Older people are at greater risk than young ones with 90% of those diagnosed above age 55. White people are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer than Black people. Those of Asian, Hispanic or Native American ancestry are also at lower risk of bladder cancer.

Genetics is sometimes a factor. Those with a family history of bladder cancer are at increased risk for the disease.

Smoking is the single biggest risk factor. Smokers are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as non-smokers.

Exposure to certain chemicals increases the risk of bladder cancer. That includes drinking well water containing arsenic. Those working with or exposed to chemicals used in paint, dye, rubber, textile and leather are more vulnerable.

Long-term use of urinary catheters may play a role in bladder cancer development, especially of the squamous cell variety. Previous cancer treatment involving the drug cyclophosphamide raises the risk of bladder cancer. That is also true for patients receiving radiation treatments for cancer in the pelvic area.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

Any changes in urinary habits could indicate potential bladder cancer. That includes increased frequency of urination, difficulty urinating or painful urination. Hematuria, or blood in the urine, is a primary sign of the disease. Urine may appear very red or a dark brown color when blood is present. Low back pain on one side of the body is a possible bladder cancer indicator.

Bladder cancer symptoms are similar in men and women, but the latter are more frequently misdiagnosed. That means by the time a correct diagnosis is made, the cancer is often more advanced in females. Misdiagnosis may attribute bladder cancer symptoms to menopausal bleeding or urinary tract or bladder infections.

Bladder Cancer Prevention

Not smoking is one of the best ways to prevent bladder cancer which is true for other types of the disease. It is also vital to consume plenty of liquids daily  because this helps flush toxins out of the bladder. Consuming a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables can lower cancer risk overall since these foods contain powerful antioxidants.

Bladder Cancer Diagnosis

When bladder cancer is suspected, the doctor will perform a cystoscopy to inspect the urethra and bladder for signs of abnormalities. The procedure consists of inserting the cystoscope — a long, narrow tube with a tiny lens attached — into the urethra.

During the cystoscopy procedure, the doctor can remove a small tissue sample for a biopsy. Urine cytology involves the examination of a urine sample for cancer cells. Imaging tests such as a CT urogram provides the doctor with a detailed view of the bladder and urinary tract. If cancer is confirmed, additional testing can determine whether it has metastasized beyond the bladder.

Bladder Cancer Treatment

Bladder cancer treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, among other factors. Such treatment may include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy

In cases of advanced cancer, targeted therapy is often deployed. If surgery removes all or part of the bladder, urinary diversion is necessary. Neobladder reconstruction which is formed from a piece of intestine, will allow most patients to urinate normally. Other types of urinary diversion require a urostomy bag on the outside of the body to collect urine or manual drainage via a catheter from an opening in the abdomen.

After treatment, bladder cancer patients must continue with follow-up testing at regular intervals. Bladder cancer has a tendency to recur. Testing frequency will depend on the aggressiveness of the tumor.

Where Diagnosis and Treatment Begin

Yosemite Pathology and Precision Pathology is a leader in the advancement of anatomic pathology in the Western United States for over 70 years. Our practice currently includes more than 20 board certified anatomic pathology specialists. Our dedicated pathologists offer a broad range of specialties, and we partner with UROQ™,  the premier provider of urologic pathology services  For more information about our services and partners, contact us today.

Jane Meggitt is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in dozens of publications including USA Today, Zack’s, Financial Advisor,, The Houston Chronicle and The Nest. She is a graduate of New York University.


Mayo Clinic – Bladder cancer

Cleveland Clinic – Bladder Cancer

World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition – Bladder cancer awareness month 2021

American Cancer Society – Key Statistics for Bladder Cancer

National Library of Medicine – Gender and Bladder Cancer: A Collaborative Review of Etiology, Biology, and Outcomes

Physician’s Weekly – ASCO GU 2021: Poorer outcomes in bladder cancer predicted by race/ethnicity and gender