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Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer starts in the lining of the bladder called the urothelium. The most common type of bladder cancer (about 90% of all bladder cancers) is urothelial carcinoma.

There are 2 ways to describe bladder cancer:

  • Invasive bladder cancer is when cancer spreads into the connective tissue or muscle in the wall of the bladder.
  • Non-invasive bladder cancer is when the cancer has not spread beyond the urothelium.

To learn more about bladder cancer, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

What’s on this Page

You will find Cancer Care Ontario information, resources and tools for:

  • patients, families and caregivers
  • anyone interested in bladder cancer
  • healthcare providers

You will also find links to other organizations that provide information related to bladder cancer.

Prevention

There are 2 main things you can do to lower your risk of getting bladder cancer:

Do Not Smoke

Smoking is linked to many types of cancer and other diseases. There is no safe kind of tobacco product and no safe amount of smoking.

If you do not smoke, keep yourself safe by staying away from places where you may breathe in other people’s tobacco smoke (second-hand smoke).

It’s never too late to benefit from quitting smoking. If you’ve tried to quit in the past and have started smoking again, don’t give up. Each time you try to quit, you get closer to your goal of quitting forever.

To find information on how to quit smoking, visit:

Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals

If you work in certain industries or occupations, you may be exposed to chemicals that can increase your risk of bladder cancer, like:

  • arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds
  • coal-tar pitch
  • soot
  • diesel engine exhaust

Drinking water containing arsenic increases your risk of bladder cancer. Arsenic levels in water vary depending on where you live.

If you work in any of these jobs, you may have a risk of chemical exposure :

  • Painter
  • Hairdresser or barber
  • Truck or transit driver
  • Heavy equipment operator
  • Mechanic
  • Underground miner

For more information on workplace exposures and bladder cancer, visit the Occupational Cancer Research Centre's page on bladder cancer.

Diagnosis

During diagnosis, a person may need many tests to confirm the cancer. Waiting for test results to come back can be stressful. If you are waiting for a diagnosis, talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about managing stress during this difficult time.

For information about diagnostic tests for bladder cancer, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Treatment

Treatment for bladder cancer will depend on:

  • the type of cancer
  • the stage of cancer
  • which treatments the person chooses to have

Treatments may include:

  • surgery
  • drug therapy (chemotherapy)
  • radiation therapy
  • other treatment options
  • clinical drug trials

To learn more about types of bladder cancer treatment, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Drug Therapy Information

You can learn more about specific cancer drugs using our patient information sheets. These provide information about cancer drug therapies, including what they are used for and how to manage side effects. To find patient information sheets, go to the Drugs page.

You can also see About Chemotherapy for general information about cancer drug therapy.

Quitting Smoking Can Help Your Treatment

It’s never too late to quit smoking. Whether you are scheduled to have surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy, quitting smoking can help your treatment work better. It also can reduce the chance of your cancer coming back or getting another form of cancer. For more information and resources, see Benefits of Quitting Smoking for People with Cancer.

Managing Symptoms and Side Effects

People with cancer may have symptoms related to their cancer or as a side effect of treatment.

Our symptom management guides explain:

  • how to recognize symptoms
  • what to do and what not to do
  • when to contact the person’s healthcare team

The guides are available for patients and for healthcare providers. Each patient guide also comes with links to helpful resources like courses, books, videos and worksheets.

Our side effect information sheets offer tips for people who have side effects from chemotherapy treatment.

If you are a person with cancer, please remember that it’s important to discuss any symptoms or concerns with your healthcare team.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are scientific studies that test the safety and effectiveness of a medical treatment. Find clinical trials in Canada.

Palliative Care

Palliative care supports people with life-threatening illness and their families. The goal of this care is to relieve suffering so people can have the best possible quality of life. Palliative care should start when a person is diagnosed with a serious illness.

To learn more, go to the Palliative Care page.

After Treatment

When treatment ends, a person moves into a new phase of their cancer experience. For many patients, a lot of the after-treatment care will be given by healthcare providers in the community, like a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Follow-Up Care

Follow-up care is the care given after active treatment for bladder cancer is over. It focuses on:

  • helping the person recover from the cancer and treatments
  • finding cancer early if it comes back

To learn more about follow-up care, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Managing Ongoing Symptoms

A person may have symptoms from cancer for months or years after treatment has ended. These are called long-term effects or late effects.

If you have ongoing symptoms after being treated for cancer, you can find information on how to manage them in our Symptom and Side Effect Management guides.

To better understand the late or long-term effects of cancer treatment, visit the Canadian Cancer Society for a helpful overview.

End-of-Life Care

Each person has a different experience during their final months and days of life. Their symptoms may change as their illness continues, and their needs for information and support will be unique. Family members will also have questions, concerns and needs of their own.

If you are helping a family member through their final months of life, talk to your healthcare team about your questions and concerns as they come up. They can give you information and resources to support you and your family, and help you make decisions and plan for end-of-life care.

For more information, go to the Palliative Care page.

Facts

  • In 2013, there were 4,737 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in Ontario, making it the 5th most common cancer. There were also 764 deaths from bladder cancer, making it the 11th leading cause of cancer death.
  • The rate of new bladder cancer cases and deaths has been going down since the 1980s.
  • Survival for bladder cancer is average compared to other cancers. People diagnosed with bladder cancer are 64.2% as likely to survive 5 years after diagnosis compared to similar people in the general population. Bladder cancer is the one common cancer where survival for males at 66.3% is significantly higher than females at 57.4%.