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What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer is a cancer which starts in the cells in the inner lining of the bladder and is sometimes called ‘transitional cell carcinoma’, or ‘TCC’. This type of cancer may be non invasive or invasive, which means that the cancer has spread through the muscle of the bladder to other parts of the body.1

Who gets it?

Bladder cancer usually takes a long time to develop, with most people with bladder cancer being over 60 years old. More men than women get bladder cancer, which may be due to a number of different risk factors.2

What are the risk factors?

It is not known what causes bladder cancer, but there are a number of different risk factors associated. A risk factor is anything that increases your risk of getting the disease, and some of the risk factors associated with bladder cancer are:2

  • A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors (including some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors).
  • 42% (44% in males and 37% in females) of bladder cancer cases each year in the UK are linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors.
  • Smoking is the main avoidable risk factor for bladder cancer, linked to an estimated 37% of bladder cancer cases in the UK.
  • An estimated 42% of bladder cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors including smoking, certain occupational exposures (6%), and ionising radiation (3%).3

Symptoms of bladder cancer4

 Common symptoms can include:

Blood in the urine is the most common symptom

4 in 5 people (80%) of people with bladder cancer have some blood in their urine2

Problems with passing urine

Stages of bladder cancer

The stage of cancer means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Knowing the stage helps your doctor decide which treatment you need.

The most common way that doctors stage bladder cancer is the TNM staging system.5

T stands for tumour and describes the size of the tumour and how far it’s spread.

N stands for nodes and if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

M stands for metastasis and describes if the cancer has spread to a different part of the body.

Your doctor may also use the terms non invasive (early), invasive or advanced bladder cancer.

Early (non muscle invasive) bladder cancer – cancer cells are only in the bladder’s inner lining.

Invasive/muscle invasive bladder cancer – cancer has spread into or through the muscle layer of the bladder.1

Advanced bladder cancer – locally advanced bladder cancer is when the cancer has grown through the bladder wall or has spread to the lymph nodes but no further. Advanced bladder cancer means that the cancer has spread outside the bladder.1

Treating locally advanced and metastatic bladder cancer.6

Surgery, also known as a radical cystectomy - This is removal of the bladder and the tissue which holds the cancer cells.6

Radiotherapy - Uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. It is used to help shrink your tumour and help control symptoms.6

Chemotherapy - Uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is used for advanced bladder cancer to help shrink the tumour and relieve symptoms.6

Immunotherapies - Immunotherapies are a group of drugs that work with your body’s immune system, helping it to identify and destroy cancer cells.

Further reading

There is more to read about bladder cancer, and you can find out more information at the following websites:

Cancer Research UK

Macmillan Cancer

Fight Bladder Cancer

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