Bladder Cancer

Whether you have been diagnosed with bladder cancer or are still waiting for answers, we want to help. At the Abramson Cancer Center, our nationally recognized experts work together to deliver innovative treatments and great outcomes.

What Is Bladder Cancer?

Your bladder is a bag-like organ that stores urine in your lower abdomen (stomach). Bladder cancer happens when abnormal bladder cells start growing out of control.

Bladder cancer is a type of genitourinary (GU) and urologic cancer. GU and urologic cancers affect the genital and urinary organs.

Doctors describe bladder cancers as muscle invasive or non-muscle invasive. Muscle invasive bladder cancer has spread through the bladder’s lining into muscle tissue. Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is only in the bladder’s lining.

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

Bladder cancer symptoms can be like symptoms of other noncancerous conditions. That’s why it’s important to see a bladder cancer expert for bladder cancer diagnosis. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Blood in the urine, which may make urine appear red or brownish
  • Frequent urination or feeling the need to urinate without being able to
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain while urinating

Blood in the urine is one of the earlier, more visible symptoms of bladder cancer. This sign is one reason why doctors find most bladder cancers early, when they’re most treatable.

Bladder Cancer Care: The Penn Medicine Advantage

At the Abramson Cancer Center, you receive care from a team of nationally recognized bladder cancer experts. This care includes:

  • Multidisciplinary approach: Bladder cancer can be complicated, and patients do better with care tailored to them. Our urologists, surgeons, and medical and radiation oncologists work together to create personalized treatment plans. This team approach ensures that we consider every part of your health and choose the treatments that make the most impact. Meet our genitourinary oncology team.
  • Bladder cancer expertise: Every member of our GU cancer team focuses only on treating GU cancers. We are one of the few centers in the U.S. with a radiation oncologist who specializes in bladder cancer. Your care benefits from the knowledge we gain while treating many routine and complex bladder cancer cases. Our high level of expertise increases your chances for a great outcome.
  • Bladder cancer clinical trials: Our bladder cancer specialists are active in muscle invasive and non-muscle invasive bladder cancer clinical trials. Their participation gives some patients extra treatment options when other methods don’t work. Get more information about our genitourinary cancer clinical trials.
  • Convenient care and telemedicine appointments: You can securely connect with your doctor from anywhere you want through our Penn Connected Health Virtual Visit program. We also offer radiation and chemotherapy at Abramson Cancer Center locations throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, so you don’t have to travel far to get the right treatment.
  • Patient support services: Successful cancer care involves more than your physical well-being. That’s why we offer emotional support and other resources. These services include home care through Penn Medicine At Home and a nurse-run bladder cancer support group. Learn more about our wide range of cancer patient and family support services.

Types of Bladder Cancer

Doctors label bladder cancers by the bladder cells they begin in. Types of bladder cancer include:

Urothelial carcinoma

Urothelial cells form the lining of the bladder and other areas of the urinary tract (the system of organs that allows you to urinate). Urothelial carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer in the U.S. It used to be known as transitional cell carcinoma (TCC).

Squamous cell carcinoma of the bladder

Squamous cell carcinomas make up just 1 to 2 percent of bladder cancers. They are associated with long-term bladder irritation. An infection or urinary catheter use can cause this type of irritation.

Adenocarcinoma of the bladder

Adenocarcinomas make up 0.5 to 2 percent of bladder cancers in the U.S. They most often come from cancer that has spread from other areas of the body.

Urethral and Ureteral Cancer Care at the Abramson Cancer Center

The urinary tract includes:

  • Two kidneys (which filter blood and make urine)
  • Two ureters (thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder)
  • Bladder
  • Urethra (tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder)

While cancer of the urethra (urethral cancer) and ureters (ureteral cancer) aren’t common, we offer comprehensive care for them. Our team includes doctors who specialize in these rare cancers. They lead research efforts to improve treatments for them.

We also have a highly trained reconstruction surgeon who specializes in improving your ability to urinate after cancer. This surgeon helps preserve urinary function in people affected by cancer of the urethra and ureters.

Our Approach to Individualized Care and Treatment

Everyone’s experience with cancer is uniquely personal to them. We believe your care should be too.

We create individualized treatment plans that consider your health history, physical characteristics and treatment goals. Read more about your bladder cancer treatment options, which may include:

  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells using drugs
  • Bladder cancer surgery that preserves sexual and urinary function
  • Immunotherapy to train your own immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy to precisely target and destroy cancer cells with powerful beams of energy
  • Clinical trials for access to new and innovative treatments, including bladder preservation options

Craig’s Story: Bladder Cancer During the COVID-19 Surge

When a routine physical showed blood in his urine, Craig found himself facing a bladder cancer diagnosis at the height of COVID-19’s first wave. But Penn’s bladder cancer expertise — and strict, new safety protocols — have Craig thankful he didn’t wait for treatment. “I’d give it five stars!” Read Craig’s story.

Make an Appointment

Please call 800-789-7366 or request a callback.