When it comes to diagnosing and treating bladder cancer, you want the leaders in the field by your side. At the Saint John’s Cancer Institute, personalized care is top of mind when we diagnose and treat bladder cancer.


What Is Bladder Cancer?

Each year in the United States, more than 61,700 men and 18,770 women are diagnosed with bladder cancer. Most are over 70 years old.

There are two kinds of bladder tumors:

Benign tumors

These are not cancerous, and usually, they are not a threat to life. They don’t invade the tissue around them and once they are treated or removed, they usually don’t grow back.

Malignant tumors

These are cancerous growths. Although they usually can be removed, they can also grow back.

Bladder cancer cells can invade nearby organs, such as the prostate in a man or the uterus in a woman. They can also break away from a tumor and spread through blood vessels to other parts of the body, including the liver, lungs, bones and lymph nodes. When this happens, the cancer has metastasized and new tumors may form in those parts of the body.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Blood in urine; this may make your urine look rusty in color
  • Feeling an urgent need to urinate
  • Having to urinate more often than you used to
  • Feeling the need to urinate but with no results
  • Needing to strain or bear down when you urinate
  • Feeling pain when you urinate

These symptoms may also be caused by another health problem, such as an infection. Talk with your doctor at Saint John’s so a problem can be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

Risk Factors

Bladder Cancer Risk Factors

Doctors can’t explain why bladder cancer occurs, but they have identified several risk factors for this type of cancer:

Chemicals in the workplace: Workers in the dye, rubber, chemical, metal, textile and leather industries may be at higher risk of bladder cancer. Also at risk are hairdressers, machinists, printers, painters and truck drivers.

Smoking is the biggest risk factor: The longer someone smokes, the greater the risk.

Certain cancer treatments: People with cancer who have been treated with certain drugs, such as cyclophosphamide, or who have had radiation treatment to the abdomen or pelvis may face a higher risk.

Race and ethnicity: Caucasians are about twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as African Americans.

Age: About 9 out of 10 people with bladder cancer are over 55.

Careers with a higher risk of chemical exposure:

  • Dry Cleaners
  • Painters
  • Autoworkers
  • Truck drivers
  • Paper manufacturers
  • Metal workers
  • Plumbers
  • Hairdressers
  • Tire and rubber workers
  • Chemical workers
  • Petroleum workers



How is Bladder Cancer Diagnosed?

In order to reach a diagnosis for bladder cancer, we take a thorough medical history and conduct a physical examination to be as accurate as possible. We’ll ask questions, make note of any symptoms you may have experienced and include any other pertinent information.

The following tests may be used to diagnose bladder cancer or to find out if it has spread:

Urine tests:

A lab checks for blood, cancer cells and other signs of disease.

Urine Cytology:

is used to help look for cancer cells in the urine collected from the patients bladder.


A thin, lighted tube called a cystoscope is used to look directly into the bladder. A local anesthesia may be needed for this test because the cystoscope will be inserted into the bladder through the urethra.


A cystoscope is used to remove tissue samples and a pathologist examines them for cancer cells. In most cases, a biopsy is the only sure way to tell whether cancer is present.

If the biopsy finds cancer cells, the pathologist will determine the “grade” of the tumor. This may indicate how fast a tumor is likely to grow. Tumors with higher grades tend to grow faster and they are more likely to spread. Doctors use tumor grades along with other factors to suggest treatment options.


Bladder Cancer Staging

If you are diagnosed with bladder cancer, your doctor will determine the stage of the disease. Staging is a way of classifying cancer by how much of the disease is in the body and whether it has spread. This helps doctors plan the best way to treat the cancer.

In the case of bladder cancer, staging is used to find out whether the tumor has invaded the muscle layer, nearby tissues or more distant parts of the body.

Stage 0

Cancer cells are found only on the surface of the inner lining of the bladder. Your doctor may call this carcinoma in situ.

Stage 1

The tumor has grown deeper into the inner lining of the bladder, but it hasn’t invaded the muscle layer.

Stage 2

The tumor has invaded the muscle layer.

Stage 3

The cancer has grown through the muscle and reached nearby tissues of the prostate, uterus, or vagina.

Stage 4

The tumor has invaded the wall of the pelvis or abdomen, but the cancer is not found in the lymph nodes. Or, the cancer cells have spread to at least one lymph node or to parts of the body far from the bladder, such as the liver, lungs, or bones.

When to see a provider:

If you have blood in your urine, feel pain when you urinate, or have any other signs or symptoms that concern you, submit an online request for an appointment or call 310-582-7137 to get it checked out.