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A B C D E F G H I J K LM N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0-9
(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)

Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer: What You Need to Know

Front view of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureters and bladder.
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  • You can reduce your risk of bladder cancer by quitting smoking, avoiding occupational exposure to certain chemicals, drinking plenty of liquids, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

  • Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men, and it is three times more common in men than women.

  • Johns Hopkins is home to the Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute, the world’s first global virtual institute dedicated to advancing the scientific understanding of bladder cancer and improving its treatment.

What is bladder cancer?

Diagram illustrating the lower urinary tract in both men and women.
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Bladder cancer occurs when there are abnormal, cancerous cells growing uncontrollably in the lining of the bladder, the hollow organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine. These cells begin to affect the normal function of the bladder and can spread to surrounding organs.

There are two types of bladder cancer:

  • Nonmuscle-invasive bladder cancer, also called superficial bladder cancer, occurs when cancerous cells are contained in the lining of the bladder and have not invaded the bladder wall. This is considered early stage and represents about 70 to 75 percent of all diagnoses.

  • Muscle-invasive bladder cancer occurs when the cancer invades the bladder wall. This is considered advanced stage and represents the other 25 to 30 percent of diagnoses. In some cases, muscle-invasive bladder cancer can also spread (metastasize) to surrounding organs or other parts of the body.

Bladder Cancer: The Basics

Specialists at the Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute (GBCI) outline a basic overview of the functions of the bladder, and the different types of cancer that can affect the bladder. Learn about symptoms and risk factors for the disease, and how the GBCI’s multi-disciplinary clinical approach is moving research forward.

Bladder Cancer Risk Factors

While the exact causes of bladder cancer are not known, there are well-established risk factors for developing the disease. Risk factors for bladder cancer include the following:

  • A history of smoking

  • A family history of bladder cancer

  • Lynch syndrome (risk factor for “upper tract” cancers)

  • Regular exposure to industrial chemicals. According to the American Cancer Society, workers who are exposed to some carcinogenic chemicals used in the dye, rubber, leather, printing, painting and textile industries may be at higher risk for bladder cancer, especially if they are also smokers. Other workers who may be at higher risk include hairdressers who work with dye and truck drivers, who are exposed to diesel fumes.

Bladder cancer affects men about three times more often than women, and it occurs in whites twice as often as in African-Americans. The risk of bladder cancer increases with age — over 90 percent of people who are diagnosed are older than 55. The average age at time of diagnosis is 73.

Bladder Cancer Prevalence

Bladder cancer is one of the most common genitourinary cancers in adults worldwide, and it is the fourth most common cancer in men. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016 in the U.S. alone, there would be about 77,000 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed.

Answers to Common Questions About Bladder Cancer

Understand the basics of bladder cancer, from risk factors and diagnosis to the various treatment and urinary diversion options available. Armine Smith, M.D., a surgeon at the Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute, tells you what you need to know.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

For many bladder cancer patients, the first symptom is blood in the urine that is either seen by the patient or discovered during a lab test. Other symptoms may include pain, burning, and frequent or incomplete urination.

Read more about bladder cancer symptoms.

Bladder Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

If you are experiencing symptoms, your doctor may order pathology and imaging tests to rule out other conditions and make a precise bladder cancer diagnosis.

Read more about bladder cancer screening and diagnosis.

Bladder Cancer Treatments

Treatment options for bladder cancer vary based on whether you have muscle-invasive cancer, and on the stage and grade of your tumor. There are many protocols and combinations of treatments available, and your doctor will work with you to determine the best approach for your individual diagnosis.

Read more about bladder cancer treatment options.

The Patient Experience: John's Story

After being diagnosed with bladder cancer by a urologist close to home, John was determined to receive care from an institution with a solid reputation and the most advanced diagnostic and treatment options. This led him to find Trinity Bivalacqua, M.D., Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute.

Bladder Cancer Research: Looking Toward the Future

The Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute was established in 2014 thanks to a $45 million co-investment from Erwin and Stephanie Greenberg and The Johns Hopkins University. Oncologist Noah Hahn, M.D., discusses the promise this institute brings and groundbreaking research that could have a clinical impact in the near future.

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