What Is Bladder Cancer

If you, or someone you know, have just been diagnosed with bladder cancer it will be a worrying time and you will hear a lot of terms you're not familiar with.  We hope our information materials on these pages will help you understand more about bladder cancer.  Our A-Z of Bladder Cancer also includes lots of the terms and words used for a quick way to look them up.

Follow the links to learn more about bladder cancer - the symptoms, how it is diagnosed, types and grades of bladder cancer, treatments, side effects of treatments - and lots of other information about living with bladder cancer and finding support.

What is bladder cancer?

The bladder is a hollow muscular organ that stores urine before it leaves the body. The kidneys filter the waste products from the body.  Urine passes down two tubes (known as the ureters) into the bladder where it is stored until you are ready to urinate. The bladder can expand to store about 500mls of urine.






The wall of the bladder lining is made of three main layers:

  • Transitional (or urothelial) epithelium: This is sometimes called the mucosa and is the innermost layer of the bladder wall. It is in this layer that most bladder cancers begin to develop
  • Lamina Propia: this is a thin layer that lies between the Transitional epithelium and Muscularis Propia.
  • Muscularis Propia: the outermost layer is made of a thick muscle tissue called the ‘detrusor' muscle. The muscle relaxes to allow the bladder to fill and then contracts to force the urine out of the bladder when you urinate.


Bladder cancer is a growth of abnormal tissue (called a tumour) that forms in the lining of the bladder.  For some people, the tumour may grow further into the other layers of the bladder.  As the cancer grows into the other layers in the bladder, it becomes more advanced and harder to treat.

Bladder cancers are classified based on how far they have invaded into the wall of the bladder:

  • Non-muscle invasive bladder cancers are still in the inner layer of cells (the transitional epithelium) and the thin middle layer (the lamina propria) but have not grown into the deeper layers.
  • Muscle invasive bladder cancers grow beyond the epithelium into the deeper layers of muscle. These types of tumours are more difficult to treat and are more likely to spread.

Grading and Staging

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Information Find information about bladder cancer, symptoms and diagnosis, and treatments.

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ABC UK Covid-19 Impact Fund 14/09/2020

ABC UK are launching a new small grants fund!  We want to help the NHS & the research community prepare for any continuing impact of Covid-19, for a second wave or future crises - and to improve the treatment and experience of those with bladder cancer.  We have launched a small f...

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