6 Surprising Facts About Bladder Cancer

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on March 14, 2021
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    What Men and Women Need to Know About Bladder Cancer
    Cancer can affect any of the organs and tissues of the body. Cancer of the bladder develops in the urinary bladder—the organ responsible for collecting urine from the kidneys. There are five different types of bladder cancer, but the most common kind starts in the cells lining the bladder. Bladder cancer is somewhat unique among cancers of the internal organs because it’s common to notice symptoms early on. Understanding the symptoms will help you be more aware of a possible problem, and knowing your risk factors will help you be proactive in reducing your risk.
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    1. Bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the United States.
    About 79,000 Americans will find out they have bladder cancer this year. This accounts for approximately 5% of all new cancer cases. In comparison, skin cancer is by far the most common cancer. It affects more than 3.3 million Americans each year. Lung cancer is also more common than bladder cancer, with nearly 225,000 new diagnoses annually. The good news is better treatments have led to more people surviving bladder cancer in recent years.
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    2. Bladder cancer symptoms in women may be overlooked, delaying diagnosis.
    Blood in the urine is one of the main symptoms of bladder cancer. Women may overlook this warning sign thinking it is menstrual blood or menopausal spotting. Other early symptoms of bladder cancer include frequent urination, urgent urination, and pain or burning with urination. Like blood in the urine, women may mistake the cause. In this case, they—and their doctors—may assume it’s a urinary tract infection. A urine analysis is the only way to know for sure if it is an infection or not.
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    3. Bladder cancer is more common in men, but women fare worse.
    Men are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop bladder cancer compared to women. This makes it the fourth most common cancer for American men. About 1 in 26 men in the United States will develop bladder cancer during their lifetime. However, women are more likely to have advanced bladder cancer at the time of diagnosis. This means the outlook for women with bladder cancer tends to be worse than for men. 
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    4. Smoking is the main risk factor for bladder cancer.
    Most people associate smoking with lung cancer. You may even know smoking can cause mouth and throat cancers. But it may come as a surprise to learn smokers are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than nonsmokers. In fact, smoking is involved in about half of bladder cancer cases in the United States. If you currently smoke, you can greatly reduce your risk of bladder cancer by stopping smoking.
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    5. Bladder cancer has a high rate of recurrence.
    Cancer recurrence means the cancer comes back after treatment. It is very common for bladder cancer to recur. In fact, the recurrence rate for bladder cancer is 50 to 80%. This is true even for early stage tumors. When cancer recurs, it can affect other areas of the bladder or urinary tract, such as the ureters—the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder. The high rate of recurrence means bladder cancer survivors need lifelong follow-up and surveillance.  
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    6. Bladder cancer survivors are at increased risk of developing certain second cancers.
    Second cancers are new cancers unrelated to bladder cancer. Bladder cancer survivors have a higher risk of certain second cancers. This includes acute myeloid leukemia and cancer of the voice box, lung, pancreas, kidney, prostate, and vagina. Smoking is a main risk factor for many of these cancers. This common denominator may account for the increased risk in bladder cancer survivors. Stopping smoking can help lower your risk of these second cancers. To help protect your health, keep all follow-up appointments with your primary care and cancer doctors and share any unusual symptoms you experience.
Bladder Cancer Facts | Bladder Cancer Symptoms in Women, Men

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 14
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