Diseases & Conditions


Bladder Cancer

Diseases & Conditions


What is bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the bladder which is a hollow organ serving as a reservoir for urine.

There are different types of bladder cancer:1

  • Transitional cell carcinoma: This type of bladder cancer is the most common type which begins in urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of cancer begins in thin, flat cells lining the bladder.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This type of cancer begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids.

The stages of bladder cancer are:

Stage I

Cancer occurs in the inner lining of the bladder and has not spread to the muscular bladder wall

Stage II

Cancer has spread to the bladder wall but is still restricted to the bladder

Stage III

Cancer has invaded the surrounding tissue of the bladder wall

Stage IV

Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and other organs such as the bones, liver or lungs


Bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the world, with 430,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012.2 In Saudi Arabia, bladder cancer is the eight most common cancer among men.3


What causes bladder cancer?

The exact cause of bladder cancer is still unknown.


What are the risk factors for bladder cancer?

Factors that may increase the risk of bladder cancer include:5

  • Genetic changes: Changes in the DNA of the bladder cells seem to play a role in bladder cancer
  • Smoking: Harmful chemicals may accumulate in the bladder due to smoking increasing the risks of developing bladder cancer.
  • Older age
  • Race: White people have a greater risk of developing bladder cancer than other races.
  • Gender: Men are at higher risk of developing this type of cancer than women.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals: People who work with certain chemicals such as dyes, rubber, leather, some textiles, paint, and hair dressing supplies, appear to be at higher risks.
  • Radiation treatment: Patients who were exposed to radiation therapy are at higher risk of bladder cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: A chemotherapy drug (cyclophosphamide) also increases the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Certain diabetes medications: The popular diabetes drug Actos can have serious side effects, including bladder cancer.
  • Personal history: Patients with a previous bladder cancer are at increased risk to form new bladder tumors.
  • Family history: People who have family members with bladder cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease.
  • Chronic bladder inflammation: Chronic inflammation of the bladder increases the risk of cancer.
  • Parasite: Having a parasite that causes schistosomiasis is believed to lead to bladder cancer


 What are the symptoms of bladder cancer?

Signs and symptoms of bladder cancer include:6

  • Hematuria or blood in the urine is the most important warning sign
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling the need to urinate with empty bladder
  • Back pain
  • Pelvic pain


How is bladder cancer diagnosed?

Tests used to diagnose bladder cancer include the following:7

  • Cystoscopy: This procedure consists of placing a tube to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas.
  • Biopsy: Samples from the bladder are collected for testing.
  • Urine cytology: Urine sample is observed under a microscope to check whether it contains any cancer or pre-cancer cells.
  • Imaging tests: These tests allow the doctor to create images to examine the bladder
    • X-ray imaging
    • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)


How is bladder cancer treated?

The main types of treatment for bladder cancer are:8

  • Surgery: The type of surgery will depend on the stage of the cancer. Surgery may include removal of the tumor, removal of the tumor along with a small part of the bladder, or removal of the entire bladder.
  • Intravesical therapy: This therapy consists of putting liquid drugs directly into the bladder which causes the body’s own immune system to attack the cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams aimed at your cancer to destroy the cancer cells.


How is bladder cancer prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent bladder cancer, but there may be things a person can do that could lower the risk:9

  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace
  • Drinking plenty of liquids
  • Eating lots of fruits and vegetables might help protect against bladder cancer


  1. Bladder Cancer (National Cancer Institute) http://www.cancer.gov/types/bladder (Accessed January 18, 2016)
  2. Bladder cancer statistics | World Cancer Research Fund International (Bladder cancer statistics | World Cancer Research Fund International) http://www.wcrf.org/int/cancer-facts-figures/data-specific-cancers/bladder-cancer- (Accessed January 18, 2016)
  3. "Cancer Incidence Report Saudi Arabia 2010." Kingdom Saudi Arabia Council of Health Services Saudi Cancer Registry. 2014. Web. <http://www.chs.gov.sa/Ar/mediacenter/NewsLetter/2010 Report (1).pdf> (Accessed January 18, 2016)
  4. Bladder Cancer-Cause (WebMD) http://www.webmd.com/cancer/bladder-cancer/bladder-cancer-cause (Accessed January 18, 2016)
  5. Bladder cancer (Risk factors) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bladder-cancer/basics/risk-factors/con-20027606 (Accessed January 18, 2016)
  6. Bladder Cancer Symptoms & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic (Bladder Cancer Symptoms & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic) http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_facts_about_bladder_cancer (Accessed January 18, 2016)
  7. Bladder cancer (Tests and diagnosis) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bladder-cancer/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20027606 (Accessed January 18, 2016)
  8. How is bladder cancer treated? (How is bladder cancer treated?) http://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladdercancer/detailedguide/bladder-cancer-treating-general-info (Accessed January 18, 2016)
  9. Can bladder cancer be prevented? (Can bladder cancer be prevented?) http://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladdercancer/detailedguide/bladder-cancer-prevention (Accessed January 18, 2016)