Types of Bladder Cancer

Understanding Bladder Cancer: Types, Causes, and Risk Factors

Introduction: Bladder cancer is a prevalent form of cancer that affects the urinary bladder, a vital organ responsible for storing urine. As part of Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, it is essential to spread awareness about this disease in India. This blog aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of bladder cancer, including its types, causes, and risk factors. By raising awareness, we can encourage early detection and effective treatment, ultimately improving the prognosis for those affected.

Types of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is primarily categorized into three main types, each originating from different cells within the bladder lining:

  • Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC): TCC is the most common type of bladder cancer, accounting for approximately 90% of cases. It arises from the transitional cells lining the bladder and can occur in different areas of the urinary tract.

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma typically develops due to chronic irritation or inflammation of the bladder. It accounts for about 4% of bladder cancer cases.

  • Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma arises from the glandular cells present in the bladder lining. It is the rarest form of bladder cancer, accounting for approximately 2% of cases.

Other rare types include

Small cell carcinoma of the bladder. 

Small cell carcinoma is a highly aggressive and rare type of bladder cancer that typically arises from the neuroendocrine cells in the bladder. It tends to grow and spread rapidly and is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. Small cell carcinoma of the bladder may be categorized as either non-invasive or invasive, similar to other types of bladder cancer. Treatment usually involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.


Sarcomas are cancers that develop from the soft tissues or connective tissues of the body. Sarcomas of the bladder are extremely rare and account for a small percentage of all bladder cancers. They can arise from the smooth muscle cells, fat cells, blood vessels, or other types of connective tissues in the bladder. Treatment for sarcoma of the bladder typically involves surgery to remove the tumor, and in some cases, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be recommended.

Other way of categorizing

Non-invasive: This refers to cancers that are confined to the inner lining of the bladder (urothelium) and have not invaded the deeper layers of the bladder wall. Non-invasive bladder cancer is further divided into two subcategories.

Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC): This includes early-stage bladder cancers that have not penetrated the muscular layer of the bladder. The most common type of NMIBC is urothelial carcinoma (transitional cell carcinoma).

Carcinoma in situ (CIS): This is a high-grade form of non-invasive bladder cancer in which abnormal cells are found in the innermost layer of the bladder.

Muscle invasive: This refers to cancers that have grown through the muscular layer of the bladder wall and may have spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes. MIBC requires more aggressive treatment, such as surgery (radical cystectomy) to remove the bladder and may also involve radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Causes of Bladder Cancer

While the exact cause of bladder cancer remains unknown, several factors are known to contribute to its development:

  • Tobacco Use: Smoking is the most significant risk factor for bladder cancer. The harmful chemicals present in tobacco smoke are absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted in the urine, thereby affecting the bladder directly.

  • Occupational Exposures: Certain occupations involving exposure to chemicals such as dyes, rubber, textiles, and certain aromatic amines increase the risk of bladder cancer. Workers in industries like chemical manufacturing, painting, and truck driving should take precautionary measures.

  •  Chronic Bladder Infections: Recurrent urinary tract infections or long-term bladder infections can increase the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.

  • Age and Gender: Bladder cancer predominantly affects older individuals, with the average age at diagnosis being 73. Additionally, men are three to four times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women.

Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

In addition to the causes mentioned above, several other factors can increase the risk of developing bladder cancer:

  • Family History: Individuals with a family history of bladder cancer are at a higher risk due to genetic factors.

  • Previous Cancer Treatment: Individuals who have previously undergone radiation therapy or chemotherapy for other cancers, such as cervical or ovarian cancer, have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer.

  • Chronic Bladder Inflammation: Chronic bladder inflammation, such as that caused by long-term use of a urinary catheter or certain medications, may raise the risk of bladder cancer.

  • Exposure to Arsenic: Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic in drinking water, particularly in certain regions of India, can significantly increase the risk of bladder cancer.

Prevention and Early Detection

Prevention and early detection play crucial roles in reducing the impact of bladder cancer. Here are some preventive measures and screening recommendations:

  • Quit Smoking: By quitting smoking, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of developing bladder cancer.

  • Occupational Safety: Strict adherence to safety guidelines and the use of protective equipment can help reduce occupational exposure to carcinogenic substances.

  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: A balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper hydration contribute to overall health and may help reduce the risk of bladder cancer.

  • Regular Check-ups: Individuals at higher risk due to family history or occupational exposures should undergo regular check-ups, including urine tests and imaging, to detect any signs of bladder cancer at an early stage.

Treatment Options for Bladder Cancer

The treatment of bladder cancer depends on various factors, including the stage and type of cancer. The primary treatment options include:

  • Surgery: Surgical intervention is a common approach for treating bladder cancer. Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is performed for early-stage tumors, while more extensive surgery may be necessary for advanced cases.

  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It may be used as the primary treatment for individuals who are unable to undergo surgery or in combination with surgery to enhance treatment effectiveness.

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be administered intravenously (systemic chemotherapy) or directly into the bladder (intravesical chemotherapy). Chemotherapy is commonly used before or after surgery or in cases where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. It stimulates the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy has shown promising results in treating advanced bladder cancer.

  • Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy utilizes drugs that specifically target cancer cells and their molecular abnormalities. It aims to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells.


Bladder cancer is a significant health concern in India, but with increased awareness, early detection, and appropriate treatment, patient outcomes can be improved. By understanding the risk factors associated with bladder cancer, individuals can take preventive measures and undergo regular screenings. Treatment options for bladder cancer, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy, provide hope for patients. During Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, let us spread knowledge about this disease, its risk factors, and available treatment options to support individuals in their fight against bladder cancer.

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