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Bladder Cancer: What You Should Know

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be about 81,180 new cases of bladder cancer in the United States in 2022 and is the fourth most common cancer in men. While the disease can occur at any age, it becomes more common as you get older. Knowing your risk, the symptoms, and preventive measures can help you reduce your risk and identify the disease sooner.

What is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer starts when the cells that make up your urinary bladder start to grow out of control. As the cancer cells grow, they can form tumors. There are also multiple types of bladder cancer, with transitional cell carcinoma being the most common.

Bladder cancers can be either non-invasive or invasive, depending on how far they spread into the wall of the bladder. Non-invasive cancers are solely in the inner layer of cells in the bladder wall. Invasive cancers are in the deeper layers of the bladder wall, making them harder to treat and more likely to spread.


Bladder cancer is often found as a result of symptoms that have started to present themselves. There are some distinct signs and symptoms associated with bladder cancer, but sometimes people with the disease don’t experience any at all. Symptoms include:

  • Blood or blood clots in the urine
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling the need to urinate often while asleep
  • Feeling the need to urinate but not being able to
  • Lower back pain on one side of the body
  • Pelvic pain

Some of these symptoms can be associated with other conditions, as well. If you experience any of the signs above, talk to your doctor right away.

Risk Factors

Like many diseases, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing bladder cancer. The main risk factor is age—around 9 out of 10 people with this type of cancer are over the age of 55. Other risk factors include:

  • Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes can increase your risk by causing harmful chemicals to accumulate in your urine. These chemicals can damage the lining of your bladder, increasing your risk of cancer.
  • Family history. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, you are more likely to develop the disease.
  • Being male. Men have a greater risk of bladder cancer—1 in 27 men will develop the disease. For women, the chance is about 1 in 89.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals. Your kidneys help filter harmful chemicals from your bloodstream, moving them to your bladder. Certain chemicals have been linked to increased bladder cancer risk such as arsenic (which can sometimes be found in drinking water) and chemicals used to manufacture dyes, rubber, leather, textiles, and paint products.
  • Dehydration. Not drinking enough water can increase your risk because chemicals are left in your bladder longer.
  • Bladder birth defects. Before birth, there’s a connection between the belly button and the bladder that usually disappears. If this connection remains after birth, it can become cancerous. Another birth defect, which includes the bladder and abdominal wall being fused together, can also increase bladder cancer risk.
  • Previous chemotherapy. Taking thechemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide for an extended period can irritate the bladder and increase the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Frequent or chronic bladder irritation and infections. Urinary infections, kidney and bladder stones, extensive use of bladder catheters, and other causes of bladder irritation have been linked to bladder cancer.
  • Race. White people are about twice as likely to develop bladder cancer than Black and Hispanic people. Asian Americans and Native Americans have slightly lower rates of the disease.


While you can’t control risk factors like age, gender, race, and family history, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your risk of developing bladder cancer:

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking is thought to cause about half of all bladder cancers, according to the American Cancer Society
  • Limit exposure to chemicals in your workplace
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables

We Can Help

If you experience any symptoms related to bladder cancer, our urology specialists can help. We use the best and latest technologies to help diagnose any urologic issues you may have. For more information, contact us today at 301-663-4774 or visit our website.

If you’ve been diagnosed with bladder cancer, the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) provides direct support for you and your loved ones. You can find more information by visiting the BCAN website.