This is what puts you at risk for bladder cancer

This is what puts you at risk for bladder cancer

More than 80,000 Americans will be diagnosed with bladder cancer this year, and more than 17,500 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. But if you or someone you care about is diagnosed, the chances of recovery are boosted with early detection, so here’s what you need to know.

The bladder is the hollow organ in your lower abdomen that receives and stores urine from the kidneys, which clean the waste from your blood. The bladder holds the waste fluid until it’s released through the urethra and passes out of the body.

Symptoms of bladder cancer
  • Blood in the urine (it can be slightly rusty to bright red)
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain during urination
  • Lower back pain

If you have any of these symptoms, please see your health care professional. Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean you have bladder cancer.


Just as with other cancers, having some of the risks doesn’t mean you’ll get cancer. Even if you have no risk factors, you could still end up being diagnosed with the disease. Risks for bladder cancer include:

  • Using tobacco, especially smoking cigarettes
  • Having a family history of bladder cancer
  • Being exposed to paints, dyes, metals or petroleum products in the workplace
  • Receiving radiation therapy to the pelvis in the past
  • Receiving certain anticancer drugs
  • Drinking well water that’s high in arsenic
  • Using urinary catheters over a long period
Different types
  • Transitional cell carcinoma: This cancer begins in cells in the innermost tissue layer of the bladder. These cells can stretch and shrink as the bladder fills and empties. Most bladder cancers begin in the transitional cells.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that may form in the bladder after long-term infection or irritation.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This rare cancer starts in the glandular (secretory) cells in the bladder lining.

If cancer is in the lining of the bladder, it’s called superficial. If it spreads through the bladder lining and into the muscle wall or spreads to other organs, it’s called invasive bladder cancer.


If you have any of the signs described, your health care provider will ask for your medical history since it can provide insights into your risk factors. Your provider may use one or more tests to make a diagnosis, such as:

  • Urinalysis to test for the presence of blood in the urine
  • Urine cytology to test for cancer cells in the urine
  • Ultrasounds
  • CT scan/MRI
  • Cystoscopy and biopsy to view the inside of the bladder and remove tissue for testing

If you are diagnosed with bladder cancer, your provider can review the best options for your situation. Treatments can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or biologic therapy, which boosts the body’s ability to fight the cancer.

As mentioned, recovery chances are better with early detection, so see your health care professional if you have questions or concerns.

Dr. Matthew W. Johnson is a urologist at Aurora Health Care.

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  1. What can you do to stop or help the bad tastes and smells from having chemo? Nausea is the worst and get dizzy when standing up. Father has bladder cancer and want to help.

  2. Richard A Krieger June 14, 2021 at 10:11 pm · Reply

    Am I at risk for bladder cancer if I have prostate issues? I only get up once per night but at times I have problems emptying my bladder completely and sometimes I have problems getting a stream started.

  3. The Health Enews are great articles. It would be awesome if we could have a search by field of topic when looking back at some of these articles to easily go back to a particular topic.

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About the Author

Dr. Matthew W. Johnson
Dr. Matthew W. Johnson

Matthew W. Johnson, MD is a board-certified urologist at AMG Urology Specialists in Milwaukee, WI.