Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer starts in the tissues of the bladder. The bladder is the hollow organ located in the lower part of the abdomen that holds and releases urine. A common urologic condition, bladder cancer affects both men and women, though it appears more often in men, especially Caucasian males. More than 70,000 Americans get bladder cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is the fourth most common cancer among men and the eighth most common among women. 

Mount Sinai Urology is recognized as a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer. We offer our patients access to the latest treatments and techniques, in addition to access to clinical trials of new therapies. We take a multidisciplinary approach to bladder cancer diagnosis and treatment, working with radiation oncologists and medical oncologists and guiding you through the benefits and risks associated with each treatment option.

There is no known cause of bladder cancer, though there are several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing the disease. Bladder cancer usually affects people between ages 65 and 85, especially smokers. You can be at increased risk if you work in rubber, leather, or textiles or as a painter, hairdresser, or truck driver.  You can also have a higher risk if you have a family history of the disease or if you had bladder birth defects.

Types of Bladder Cancer 

There are three main types of bladder cancer, each named for the type of bladder cell where the cancer starts. They include:

  • Urothelial cell carcinoma, previously called transitional cell carcinoma, is relatively common and affects about 90 percent of bladder cancer patients. Urothelial carcinoma occurs in urothelium, the cells that line the inside of the bladder. Subtypes of this type of bladder cancer include papillary carcinomas and flat carcinomas.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous cells of the bladder and accounts for about four percent of all cases.
  • Adenocarcinoma startsin the glandular cells of the bladder. Although rare in the United States, this condition represents about two percent of all cases.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for bladder cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, include:

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace (such as rubber, dyes and textiles, paint, and hairdressing supplies)
  • Family history of bladder cancer
  • Personal history of chronic bladder problems or bladder cancer
  • Cancer treatments such as radiation or cyckophosphamide (Cytoxan®) 

Symptoms of Bladder Cancer 

Symptoms that may indicate bladder cancer include:

  • Blood in your urine (which may make the urine look rusty or darker red)
  • Urgent need to empty your bladder
  • Needing to empty your bladder more often than you used to
  • Feeling the need to empty your bladder without results
  • Needing to strain (bear down) when you empty your bladder
  • Pain when you urinate


There are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing bladder cancer. Do not smoke or use tobacco products and if you do, quit. Try to avoid or minimize exposure to certain chemicals, especially hair dye and diesel fumes. Make sure your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat and cholesterol.

Ongoing Research and Clinical Trials 

At Mount Sinai, we are involved with two clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of two agents in conjunction with chemotherapy. Matthew Galsky, MD, Director of Genitourinary Medical Oncology at the Tisch Cancer Institute, is the principal investigator for these trials.