Bladder Cancer Process


The development and progress of bladder cancer is not fully understood. Doctors do know more than 90 percent of all bladder cancers originate in the urothelium - a thin surface layer that lines the inside of the bladder.1 The majority of bladder tumors do not invade the bladder muscle and are confined to the urothelium or the lamina propria – a layer of loose connective tissue next to the urothelium.

Varied Growth

Most cancerous bladder tumors are not aggressive, but when they are the tumors can invade the wall of the bladder and spread to other parts of the body. This can possibly result in death but even aggressive forms of bladder cancer may not spread or become life-threatening if they are found and treated in the early stages. There are several stages of bladder cancer and several types of diagnostic tests used to determine if and how far the disease has spread.

How Cancer Spreads

Cancer can spread in the body in three ways:

  1. Cancer can invades the surrounding normal tissue.
  2. Cancer can invade the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
  3. Cancer can invade the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.

When cancer cells break away from the original or primary tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, a secondary tumor may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary or metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if bladder cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually bladder cancer cells. The disease is metastatic bladder cancer, not bone cancer.

The prognosis or chance of recovery depends on the stage of the cancer, the type and appearance of bladder cancer cells, and the patient's age and general health. Keep in mind, early detection is critical since most early stage bladder cancers are curable. 2

  1. “Bladder Cancer”, American Urology Care Foundation, , URL:
  2. “Bladder Cancer Treatment”, National Cancer Institute, , URL:

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PN 1002318 Rev A 04/2013 U 07/06/2012

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