Bladder and Ureteral Cancer: Overview

The bladder is a balloon-shaped organ in the pelvic area that stores urine. The ureter is a small tube that delivers urine from each kidney down to the bladder. The lining of these structures can develop cancer.  The most common type of cancer in these locations is transitional cell carcinoma.  Patients who develop this type of cancer can be much more likely to form new tumors of the same type in other locations of this urinary tract lining.

A diagnosis can be prompted by pain, increased urinary frequency, blood in the urine (visible or detected by urinalysis), or a coincidental finding on an x-ray such as a CT scan.  Smoking is the greatest single risk factor for bladder cancer. Exposure to certain toxic chemicals and drugs may also increase the risk.  The diagnosis can sometimes be made by a variety of x-ray tests.  However, placing a telescope inside these structures is often necessary.  Examination of the urine for cancer cells (urinary cytology), abnormal DNA (FISH test), or certain chemicals can be helpful.