Some of the common terms relating to bladder cancer


The section of the body that contains the pancreas, liver, stomach, intestines, gallbladder, and other organs.

Cancer that begins in cells that line certain internal organs and that have gland-like (secretory) properties.

Additional cancer treatment given after the primary treatment with aim of lowering the risk of the cancer coming back. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or biological therapy.

A loss of feeling or awareness. A local anaesthetic gives loss of feeling in a specific part of the body. A general anaesthetic will make the person go to sleep.

A substance that inhibits or destroys micro-organisms, used to treat bacterial infections.



Bacteria are single-cell microorganisms. A large group, some cause infections and disease in humans and animals.

Not cancerous, the tumour has not invaded tissue nearby or spread to other parts of the body.

An immunotherapy drug which is effective for some non-muscle invasive cancers.  It is given directly as a solution into the bladder (intravesical) by using a catheter.  The solution contains live Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) bacteria.  These bacteria activate the immune system.

Removal of a sample of tissues for examination under a microscope, used in cancer diagnosis.

The organ of the body that stores urine before it is passed from the body.

Bladder cancer
Cancer that forms in the tissues of the bladder. Most bladder cancers are transitional cell carcinomas (cancer that starts in cells that make up the inner lining of the bladder). Other types of bladder cancer include squamous cell carcinoma (cancer that begins in thin, flat cells) and adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). The cells that form squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma develop in the inner lining of the bladder as a result of chronic irritation and inflammation.

Blood tests
Tests done on blood samples.  These might be needed at different stages in treatment and are often done within the clinic. 

Blue Light Cystoscopy
A cystoscopy where a special blue light is used which makes tumours fluoresce and show up more clearly.  Also called PDD - photodynamic diagnosis.



A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control.  These abnormal cancer cells can invade tissues nearby and can also spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

A thin tube inserted into a vein or body cavity to administer medication, drain off fluid, or insert a surgical instrument.   Chemotherapy is sometimes given via a cannula into a vein.

Carcinoma in situ
High grade cancer cells confined to the innermost layer of the bladder lining, the tumour is flat and not growing out of the bladder wall.  CIS is an aggressive form of bladder cancer despite it being confined to the innermost layer of the bladder. 

A flexible tube inserted through a narrow opening into a body cavity, particularly the bladder, for removing fluid.  Urinary catheterisation is where a catheter is used to drain the bladder of urine.

A cancer treatment which uses one or more anti-cancer drugs to target and kill cancer cells.  Sometimes called ‘chemo'.

CT scan
A CT (computerised tomography) scanner is a special kind of x-ray machine which sends several beams at the same time from different angles.  These scans are painless and let doctors look at the inside of the body without having to operate or make an uncomfortable examination.  Also called computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan.

The medical and scientific study of cells - a branch of pathology, the medical specialty that is concerned with diagnoses of diseases and conditions through the examination of tissue samples from the body.

A thin, fibre optic instrument that has a light and a camera at one end.  It is used to look inside the bladder and remove tissue samples or small tumours.

A procedure to examine the inside of the bladder and urethra using a thin, lighted instrument (called a cystoscope) inserted into the urethra. Tissue samples can be removed and examined under a microscope to determine whether disease is present.  See Flexible and Rigid cystoscopy.

Surgery to remove the bladder.

Radical cystectomy - removal of the entire bladder and surrounding tissues.

Partial cystectomy - removal of part of the bladder (less than 5% of cases)

Clinical trial
A medical research study that involves people, that tests how well new medical treatments or other interventions work.  Each study is designed to test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of a disease.

The capability to control the flow of urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, controlled by muscles called sphincters, which wrap around the base of the bladder and urethra.



Device Assisted
Device assisted chemotherapy or intravesical therapies - new methods of administering chemotherapy into the bladder.  Methods currently under research are either using electric current (EMDA) or using a heated agent (hyperthermic).

Hot loop surgery - during a TURBT operation the surgeon may remove visible tumour using a hot loop.

Widening or stretching, for example dilation of the urethra to help with urine flow.

Uncomfortable or painful urination. 



Electromotive drug administration - a new method of administering therapies into the bladder, a device assisted therapy using an electric current, currently under research.

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.



Flexible cystoscopy
A type of cystoscopy which involves inserting a flexible tube into the urethra (water pipe) and then passing it through to the bladder. A local anaesthetic gel is used for both men and women to numb the urethra before the procedure. 

Flow rate
A test to measure the rate of your urinary flow, done with a full bladder, you will be asked to pass water (urinate) into a special machine.  



Grade or grading
Cancer tumour grading system that is used to describe a cancer tumour in terms of how abnormal the cells appear compared with normal cells, when viewed under a microscope.  A grade can be an indication of how a tumour might behave.   Grading can be used with a staging system which describes the size of a tumour.



Presence of red blood cells in the urine.  Can show as red blood, a rusty or pink tinge or with clots.  One important symptom of bladder cancer - any sign of blood in urine should always be acted upon and investigated by a GP as soon as possible.

Branch of medicine involving study of the blood and blood-forming tissues.

Hyperthermic intravesical chemotherapy.  A new method of administering therapies into the bladder currently under research, using heated agents (hyperthermic mitomycin or intravesical microwave hyperthermia with chemotherapy, or the Synergo technique or hyperthermic intravesical chemotherapy - HIVEC). 



Ileal Conduit
A form of urinary diversion or drainage that is created following surgery to remove the bladder.  It uses a short segment of the small intestine (Ileum) which is then linked to an opening created on the surface of the abdomen - a mouth, or stoma.  Also known as Urostomy.

The final and longest section of the small intestine.   Ileal means relating to the Ileum.

Tests that produce pictures of areas inside the body.

Immune system
The complex system of cells and tissues which protects the body against disease and infection. It can help to fight cancer, but can also be weakened by some cancers or treatments. 

Cancer immunotherapy is a form of treatment that uses the immune system of the body.  The immunotherapy stimulates and improves the ability of the immune system to fight disease (cancer cells) and infection. It can also be used to lessen side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Also known as biological therapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.

The introduction of a liquid drop by drop. Can be used in the term bladder instillation, in relation to administering drugs directly into the bladder.

Into a vein - sometimes called IV

Within a bladder, particularly the urinary bladder.

Intravesical Therapy
Drug treatment given directly into the bladder, rather than by mouth or through a vein, usually via a catheter.

Invasive bladder cancer
Cancer that has spread beyond the tissue layer in which it developed and is growing into the surrounding tissues.





Organs (a pair) in the abdomen that remove waste from the blood, which is then expelled as urine, and produce a substance that stimulates red blood cell production and play a role in regulating blood pressure.



Lamina Propria
One of the three main layers of the bladder wall - this is a thin layer that lies between the Transitional epithelium and Muscularis Propia.

Laparoscopic surgery also called keyhole surgery, this type of surgery can be used to remove the bladder.

Lymph gland or node
A small oval shaped body, an important part of the lymphatic system, lymph nodes are spread out widely throughout the body including armpit, groin, neck and abdomen. Lymph nodes or glands are linked by lymphatic vessels and contain many lymphocytes, which filter the lymphatic fluid (lymph).

Lymphatic system
The tissues and organs that produce, store, and carry white blood cells that fight infection and other diseases. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, and network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells. These tubes branch, like blood vessels, into all the tissues of the body.



A malignant tumour caused by abnormal cell division, which has the properties to invade surrounding tissue and may spread to other parts of the body.

Medical oncologist
A doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and biological therapy.

The spread of a cancer from where it started in the body (the primary site) to other parts of the body (secondary site).  

Muscle-Invasive bladder cancer - where the tumour has spread into the muscle of the bladder or beyond.

Mitomycin (Mitomycin C)
Mitomycin is a chemotherapy drug| used to treat different cancers including| bladder|, breast, oesophagus|, stomach|, pancreas|, lung| and liver| cancers.

Muscularis Propia
One of the three main layers of the bladder wall - this is the outermost layer 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.



Narrow Band Imaging
Also called NBI, uses a special computer enhanced cystoscope (camera to see inside the bladder) which make the blood vessels in tumours easier to see.

Neoadjuvant Therapy
Neoadjuvant therapy is treatment given as a first step before a cystectomy or radical radiotherapy to improve the results of either surgery or radiotherapy.

A new, artificial bladder, usually created from a section of intestine, which replaces the removed bladder, draining through the urethra.

Non-Muscle Invasive bladder cancer - where the cancer is confined to the bladder lining and has not spread into the outer walls of the bladder.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care.



A medical professional who practices oncology - that is, the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The study and treatment of tumours within the body



A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

A thin, long, hollow tube that is put into a vein (above the bend of your elbow) to administer chemotherapy and other medicines.

Photodynamic diagnosis or blue light cystoscopy

The lower part of the abdomen, between the hip bones.

Photodynamic therapy
Treatment with drugs, which kill cancer cells, that become active when exposed to light.

Primary tumour
The tumour at the original site where the cancer started to grow.

The course of a cancer as it progresses, or spreads within the body

A gland in the male reproductive system just below the bladder. It surrounds part of the urethra, the canal that empties the bladder, and produces a fluid that forms part of semen.

Phase 1 or I trial
The first step in a clinical trial - usually only with a small number of patients - these studies test the best way to give a new treatment and the best dose that does not cause harmful side effects.

Phase 2 or II trial
A stage in a clinical trial making a study to test whether a new treatment has an effect on cancer and whether it works against a particular type of cancer.

Phase 3 or III trial
A stage in a clinical trial to compare the results of people taking a new treatment against the results of people taking the standard treatment (for example comparing survival rates or levels of side effects). Phase 3 studies may include 100's of people, and will usually only move to this phase if successful in phases 1 and 2.

Phase 4 or IV trial
A stage of clinical trial after a treatment has been approved that studies any further side effects of a treatment.  These trials can include thousands of people.




Quality of life
The overall sense of well-being.  Clinical trials can often measure aspects of a person's ability to perform various tasks as part of daily life and their sense of well-being to assess the effects of cancer and treatments.



Radiation oncologist
A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation therapy Radiotherapy -
use of exact measures of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, and other sources to treat cancer by destroying abnormal cells and shrinking tumors.  External-beam radiation therapy comes from a machine outside the body; internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy uses radioactive material placed in the body in the area near cancer cells; Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance that circulates throughout the body.

Radical radiotherapy - potentially curative radiotherapy

Radical cystectomy
Surgery to remove the bladder together with nearby tissues and organs

Recur or recurrence
To occur again - come back. The cancer may come back to the same place as the primary tumour or recur in another place in the body.

An additional treatment sometimes given during radiotherapy to make the radiotherapy work better.

Removal of a part of a body by surgery.

Rigid cystoscopy
A cystoscopy using a more rigid cystoscope that a flexible cystoscopy.  Usually done under a general anaesthetic, particularly in men due to the discomfort.

Risk factor
A feature of someone's habits, genetic makeup or personal history that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.  For example, smoking is recognised as a risk factor for developing bladder cancer.

Robotic surgery
Using robotic devices which have miniaturised cameras and precision lasers to conduct minimally invasive surgical procedures eg cystectomy. A surgeon sits at a console by the patient and uses laparoscopic tools with hand and foot controls, whilst seeing 3-D images of the site of the surgery.  This can sometimes be referred to as the DaVinci system.



Side effects
Treatment effects- Problems that occur as a result of treatment, common effects of cancer treatments might be fatigue, nausea or vomiting.

Small intestine
The part of the digestive tract that is located between the stomach and the large intestine.  The Ileum is part of the small intestine.

Sphincter muscle
A circular muscle that cuts off the flow of urine when contracted. Men have one where the prostate and bladder join and the second below the prostate in the upper part of the urethra. Women have the second sphincter, which wraps around the urethra.

Squamous cell carcinoma
Cancer that begins in squamous cells, such as the lining of the bladder, they are thin, flat cells.

Squamous cells
Cells that look flat under a microscope, they cover internal and external surfaces of the body.

The extent of a cancer, especially whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.

Performing tests and examinations to learn the extent of a cancer, and the system used to describe the size of a cancer and how far it has grown. When a cancer is first diagnosed, tests will be made to assess the size of the cancer and whether it has spread into the surrounding tissues or another part of the body.  Cancer staging may also include grading of the cancer, which is a method of describing how similar a cancer cell is to a normal cell.  The stage and grade of the cancer will influence the type of treatment.

A small flexible tube which is inserted to keep a bodily tube open.  Sometimes inserted to keep the urine flowing through the ureter.

Greek for mouth.  A stoma is a small opening created in the abdomen for urinary diversion, the urine flows into a stoma bag.

Not invasive - affecting cells on the surface.

Superficial bladder cancer or Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.
Tumours that are inside the bladder lining that do not invade the lamina propria or muscle wall. The majority of bladder cancers are non-invasive or superficial.  This does not mean superficial in the sense of being non-serious.

Systemic chemotherapy - drug treatment given via a drip into the veins that travels through the bloodstream reaching cells all over the body.



Body cells that are similar in type, in a group or layer, which perform a specific function.

Transitional cells
Cells that stretch without breaking apart, they can change in shape depending on whether the tissue is being stretched.  These cells line the bladder.

Transitional cell Carcinoma  TCC
A type of cancer that develops in the urinary system, lining of the bladder, ureter, or renal pelvis. Also referred to as urothelial cell carcinoma.  The most common type of bladder cancer.

Transurethral resection of bladder tumour - Surgery performed with a special instrument inserted through the urethra to investigate and treat the tumour.

An abnormal mass of tissue that results from excessive cell division. Tumours may be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).



A scan that uses sound waves to make images of organs and structures inside your body and is painless.

The duct or tube which carries urine from a kidney to the bladder.

Water pipe - the tube which transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

The fluid containing water and waste products, secreted by the kidneys, stored in the bladder, and leaving the body by way of the urethra.

A doctor who specialises in diseases of the urinary tract (in both men and women) and the male reproductive system. This includes diseases affecting the bladder, urethra, ureters, kidneys, and adrenal glands, and the male reproductive system.

The branch of medicine relating to the function, disorders and diseases of the urinary tract (the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs)

A form of urinary diversion or drainage that is created following surgery to remove the bladder.  It uses a short segment of the small intestine (Ileum) which is then linked to an opening created on the surface of the abdomen - a mouth, or stoma.  Also known as Ileal Conduit.

Urostomy Bag
A bag which attaches to a stoma, following a urinary diversion, to collect the urine.

Urinary Diversion
A surgical procedure to create an alternate route for urine to exist the body, often following removal of the bladder.



x-rays are a type of high-energy radiation where a single x-ray passes easily through the body's soft tissues and fluids, creating images of your bones and certain other tissues inside the body.   Used in low doses to diagnose diseases and in high doses to treat cancer.

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