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Bladder Cancer Causes & Diagnosis

While the exact cause of bladder/urothelial cancer is unknown, certain factors are associated with bladder cancer.

Risk factors include:

  • Age and Gender: Men 50 and older are at a higher risk of bladder cancer.
  • Smoking: Nearly half of all patients that develop bladder cancer are smokers.
  • Family history: There appears to be a genetic component to bladder cancer. Families with multiple relatives with colon or lung cancer may be at risk for bladder cancer.
  • Occupational exposure: Patients with exposure to certain chemicals and water with carcinogens have a higher risk of bladder cancer.
  • Bladder inflammation: Patients that have chronic inflammation (such as those with catheters) have a higher risk of bladder cancer.

Early Detection

Routine screening for bladder cancer is not performed for patients without symptoms of bladder cancer.

Patients with blood in their urine are evaluated in two ways (both are necessary):

Cystoscopy: A urologist will evaluate the bladder by looking at the lining with a small flexible cystoscope. This procedure is nearly pain-free and takes less than two minutes to complete during a visit to the urology clinic.

During a cystoscopy procedure, the surgeon uses a cystoscope and shines light inside to visualize the lining of the bladder to aid in visibility. In a standard procedure, the light is regular white light (like light from a light bulb) which helps your doctor visually assess the general health of your bladder and find irregularities to be further evaluated.

We also offer Blue Light Cystoscopy (BLC™) with Cysview® which illuminates suspicious areas and causes cancerous cells to glow pink under the blue light. Anyone who is suspected of having or is known to have bladder cancer (from a previous cystoscopy) can have BLC with Cysview.

Imaging: Imaging tests are used to examine the kidneys, ureter and rest of the abdomen to assess for possible signs of cancer.

Ask your urologist about which procedure is right for you.


Any abnormality of the bladder lining (or the urinary tract) may be cancer and a biopsy and/or resection should be performed. A biopsy of the bladder is known as a TURBT (transurethral resection of a bladder tumor). This procedure is performed in the operating room under anesthesia.

During the procedure:

  • A pelvic exam in performed under anesthesia to ensure the cancer is limited to the bladder.
  • A cystoscope is placed into the bladder and the entire urethra and bladder are evaluated. We often use blue-light cystoscopy to evaluate for any areas of early cancer.
  • If possible, the tumor or abnormality is removed entirely.
  • To prevent infection, you may be given an antibiotic medicine.

After the procedure, you might have soreness in the area and blood in your urine. You may be sent home with a catheter.

The results of the biopsy usually take one week. We will call you with pathology to discuss the next set of treatments.

This content is provided by the National Cancer Institute (

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Source Agency: National Cancer Institute (NCI)

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