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Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the United States.
*Source: National Institutes of Health

Bladder Cancer

The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine and cancer may occur in its lining. Tumors similar to bladder cancer can also form in the kidneys and the ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Annually, more than 70,000 are diagnosed with bladder cancer and almost 15,000 die from the disease. Unfortunately, many bladder cancers aren’t diagnosed until they become very large. Researchers are working on developing urine tests that would allow for earlier detection of bladder cancer.

WellStar Health System provides superior care for bladder cancer, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition WellStar offers such innovative advances in the fight against bladder cancer, including:

  • Advanced medical oncologists with special interest in bladder cancer who practice state-of-the-art care in a collegial atmosphere.
  • Expert surgical teams offering experience in complex bladder surgery.
  • The entire spectrum of diagnostic and interventional treatments, from cystoscopies to intravenous pyelograms to CT scans.
  • A Tumor Board, which holds weekly meetings of a multidisciplinary team, for review of complex cases.
  • Clinical trials - making novel therapies available to patients.


Bladder cancer signs and symptoms could include:

  • Blood in urine or “hematuria” – urine might appear dark yellow, bright red or cola colored. Or blood might be detected in microscopic examination of urine. Most patients with bladder cancer do not have symptoms other than hematuria.
  • Frequent urination
  • Painful urination
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Abdominal pain

Risk Factors

It's not clear what causes bladder cancer, but doctors have identified factors that may increase your risk of bladder cancer. Risk factors include:

  • Increasing age. The risk of bladder cancer increases as you age. Bladder cancer can occur at any age, but it's rarely found in people younger than 40.
  • Smoking. Smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes may increase your risk of bladder cancer by causing harmful chemicals to accumulate in your urine. When you smoke, your body processes the chemicals in the smoke and excretes some of them in your urine. These harmful chemicals may damage the lining of your bladder, which can increase your risk of cancer.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals. Your kidneys play a key role in filtering harmful chemicals from your bloodstream and moving them into your bladder. Because of this, it's thought that being around certain chemicals may increase your risk of bladder cancer. Chemicals linked to bladder cancer risk include arsenic and chemicals used in the manufacture of dyes, rubber, leather, textiles and paint products. Smokers who are exposed to toxic chemicals may have an even higher risk of bladder cancer.
  • Previous cancer treatment. Treatment with the anti-cancer drug cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) increases your risk of bladder cancer. People who received radiation treatments aimed at the pelvis for a previous cancer may have an elevated risk of developing bladder cancer.
  • Chronic bladder inflammation. Chronic or repeated urinary infections or inflammations (cystitis), such as may happen with long-term use of a urinary catheter, may increase your risk of bladder cancer.
  • Personal or family history of cancer. If you've had bladder cancer, you're more likely to get it again. If one or more of your immediate relatives have a history of bladder cancer, you may have an increased risk of the disease, although it's rare for bladder cancer to run in families. A family history of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also called Lynch syndrome, can increase your risk of cancer in your urinary system, as well as in your colon, uterus, ovaries and other organs.