Bladder Cancer

Expert Care and Treatment for Genitourinary Cancers

The Lank Center includes medical, urologic, and radiation oncologists who treat patients with prostate, kidney, bladder, and testicular cancer, as well as adrenocortical carcinoma.

Your care team will collaborate to develop a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan that offers the most advanced therapies and an array of supportive resources. 

Genitourinary Cancer Treatment Center

What Is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer is a disease that forms in the tissues of the bladder, and most cases of bladder cancer begin in cells that make up the lining of the bladder. Each year, over 80,000 new cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed in the United States. Of these cases, nearly all occur in patients over the age of 55 years, more commonly in men than women. 

The bladder is an organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine, the waste produced when the kidneys filter the blood. The bladder expands and shrinks as it stores and empties urine. Urine passes from the kidneys into the bladder through tubes called ureters. A tube called the urethra, which is longer in men than women, then carries urine out of the body. 

Risk Factors 

Risk factors for bladder cancer may include: 

  • Using tobacco, especially smoking cigarettes 
  • Being a male (Men are four times more likely than women to develop the disease.) 
  • Being over 40 years of age 
  • Being white 
  • A personal history of chronic urinary tract infections or bladder infections 
  • Exposure to certain chemotherapy drugs or radiation treatments 
  • Exposure to certain chemicals or occupations that deal with certain chemicals: this includes those who work in the rubber, leather or chemical industry, hairdressers, printers, painters, machinists, metal workers, textile workers, truck drivers, and those who work at dry cleaners. 
  • Use of urinary catheters for a prolonged time 
  • Having a kidney transplant 
  • Having a history of kidney or bladder stones 
  • Drinking water with high levels of arsenic 
  • Prolonged use of the bacteria A. fangchi, found in a Chinese herb 
  • Certain genetic conditions, including hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), otherwise known as Lynch syndrome 
Anatomy of the male urinary system (left) and female urinary system (right) shows the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. 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.

Signs and Symptoms 

Symptoms of bladder cancer vary from person to person, but the most common sign is blood in the urine (hematuria). However, blood in the urine may be caused by a number of conditions, and does not necessarily indicate cancer. 

Common bladder cancer signs and symptoms may include: 

  • Blood in the urine 
  • Change in bladder habits 
  • Painful urination 
  • Frequent urination, or having the urge to urinate unnecessarily 
  • Lower back pain 


To diagnose bladder cancer, or to see if the cancer has spread, these tests may be performed: 

  • Physical exam 
  • Blood and urine tests 
  • Cystoscopy 
  • Biopsy 
  • Bone scan 
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): In this process a dye is injected, which then travels through the urinary system and shows up on an X-ray 
  • CT (CAT) scan or PET scan 
  • X-ray 
  • MRI scan 

Learn details about how we diagnose bladder cancer


Treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer and a patient's general health. Treatment may include: 

  • Advanced surgical and reconstructive procedures, including robotic surgery 
  • Radiation therapy 
  • Immunotherapy 
  • Personalized chemotherapy 
  • Clinical trials 
  • Active surveillance 

Learn details about how we treat bladder cancer


The chance of recovery (prognosis) depends mainly on the stage of the cancer, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body, as well as the age and health of the patient. 

Why Choose Us

When you come to the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, you are cared for by compassionate and experienced leaders in their field, who put your well-being and treatment first. Our multidisciplinary team of urologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurses, and support staff provide the safest, most effective therapies to treat your bladder cancer, while minimizing the side effects of treatment. We work closely with you to personalize your care every step of the way. 

We provide comprehensive services to patients with these cancers, including:  

  • Comprehensive treatment plans tailored to your specific cancer 
  • Innovative treatment approaches, including clinical trials of targeted and combination therapies, robotic surgery and reconstructive techniques, and radiation therapies using real-time image guidance 
  • A nationally recognized research team who precisely identify cancer cells using a clinical database of over 8,000 genitourinary cancer samples 
  • An average of 25 open clinical trials at a time for genitourinary patients 
  • Multidisciplinary care delivered by specialists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital