Bladder cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the bladder. The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower part of the abdomen. It is shaped like a small balloon and has a muscle wall that allows it to get bigger or smaller. The bladder stores urine until it is passed out of the body. Urine is the liquid waste that is made by the kidneys when they clean the blood. The urine passes from the two kidneys into the bladder through two tubes called ureters. When the bladder is emptied during urination, the urine goes from the bladder to the outside of the body through another tube called the urethra.
Anatomy of the female urinary system showing the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the renal tubules and collects in the renal pelvis of each kidney. The urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra.
The most common type of bladder cancer is transitional cell cancer. Squamous cell and other more aggressive types of bladder cancer are less common.
Risk Factors, Signs and Symptoms, and Diagnostic and Staging Tests
In teenagers who were treated with certain anticancer drugs for leukemia, the risk of bladder cancer is increased.
Bladder cancer may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your child's doctor if your child has any of the following:
- Blood in the urine (slightly rusty to bright red in color).
- Frequent urination or feeling the need to urinate without being able to do so.
- Pain during urination.
- Lower back pain.
Other conditions that are not bladder cancer may cause the same signs and symptoms.
Tests to diagnose and stage bladder cancer may include the following:
- Physical exam and history.
- CT scan.
- Ultrasound of the bladder.
See the General Information section for a description of these tests and procedures.
Other tests used to diagnose bladder cancer include the following:
- Urinalysis: A test to check the color of urine and its contents, such as sugar, protein, red blood cells, and white blood cells.
- Urine cytology: Examination of urine under a microscope to check for abnormal cells.
- Cystoscopy: A procedure to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas. A cystoscope is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. A cystoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.