Healthy Living

What are the Different Types of Bladder Cancer?

What are the Different Types of Bladder Cancer?

What are the Different Types of Bladder Cancer?

The bladder is a very important organ, usually found on the pelvis (lower abdomen). This hollow organ acts as a storage unit for the urine formed by your kidneys. Being such an important organ of the urinary tract, it is at high risk, since it receives almost all excretory products of your body. This means that it cannot escape exposure to some carcinogenic substances as they are eliminated from your body through the urinary tract. Once it is exposed to carcinogens, its risk of developing bladder cancer increases.

Bladder cancer occurs as a result of degeneration of normal bladder cells. This dangerous or malignant transformation of cells can be due to a mutation causing abnormal growth without normal cell growth control. This results in the formation of a mass of cells called a 'malignant tumor,' which has the capability of spreading over other body parts, a process known as metastasis. Bladder cancer can therefore be very destructive to the neighboring cells due to this very reason. Metastasis means that the cancerous cells have the ability to spread over other organs found in the body through the lymphatic system.

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Bladder cancer is a term which conveys the idea that the cancer has originated from the bladder.

What is Bladder Cancer Staging?

Staging of bladder cancer is a method of describing the location of cancer. Has it spread or invaded other body parts? Staging of cancer is very important, since it helps your doctors choose the best treatment for your bladder cancer. There are common bladder cancer types, as discussed below.

Transitional Cell Bladder Cancer

Transitional cell bladder cancer, also known as 'urotherial cancer,' is one of the major types of bladder cancer, accounting for about 90% of bladder cancer cases across the globe. This type of cancer begins from the cells lining the bladder, which make up the urothelium. The transitional cells are bunched together when your bladder is empty. When your bladder is full, the transitional cells are stretched out to form one layer. Since the transitional cells form the inner lining of your bladder, they are likely to come into contact with several waste products in your urine that may cause cancer.

Transitional cell bladder cancer behaves in two different ways, as discussed below.

Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer

Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, also known as superficial bladder cancer, is an early stage of transitional cell bladder cancer. This type of bladder cancer is found only on the inner lining of your bladder. The cancer grows out of your bladder and appears to take the shape of a tiny mushroom. Superficial bladder cancer is a cancer which has not yet grown into the inner layers of your bladder wall. The stage is referred to as papillary bladder cancer.

Papillary bladder cancer

This is a cancer which can be removed by your surgeon successfully and cannot be redeveloped after the surgery. However, some other types of non-muscle invasive bladder cancers, such as Carcinoma in Situ, are more likely to reoccur.

Carcinoma in Situ (CIS)

This type of superficial bladder cancer contains cells that look flat under abnormal growth, and they do not grow outside the bladder wall. The cells here appear very abnormal and have the likelihood of a quick growth, which is also called the high grade bladder cancer. This type of cancer is more likely to occur when compared to other types of superficial bladder cancer.

T1 Tumors

This is a type of superficial bladder cancer which has grown beyond the lining of the bladder to the layer underneath, known as lamina propria. There are high grade T1 tumors which grow rapidly. T1 bladder cancer is very likely to reoccur after treatment.

Invasive Bladder Cancer

Transitional cell bladder cancer can sometimes be invasive. This means that this type of cancer can grow and spread to the muscles of the bladder and beyond. According to statistics, many people are diagnosed with bladder cancer at the invasive stage of transitional cell bladder cancer.

This type of cancer requires a close and intensive treatment when compared to non-invasive bladder cancer. If it is left unattended or treated lightly, it could spread to other parts of the body. Invasive bladder cancer is divided into three stages: T2, T3, and T4.

Squamous Cell Bladder Cancer

Squamous cell bladder cancer is a type of bladder cancer which is characterized by flat, moist, skin-like cells lining the bladder. This type of cancer accounts for about 5% of bladder cancer reported around the globe. Squamous bladder cancer is very common among developing countries, where schistosomiasis infection is on the rise.


This is a rare type of bladder cancer affecting only about 2% of the population. It develops from the mucosal cells, which line the bladder. All the tissues lining the inside of the bladder are moist and produce mucus.  

Other Rare Types of Bladder Cancer

In some cases, bladder cancer originates from the bladder muscles instead of the inner bladder lining. Any type of bladder cancer that begins in the bladder muscle is referred to as sarcoma. Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer.

Another uncommon type of bladder cancer is the small cell cancer. This is a type of cancer which can be treated easily by chemotherapy. Its chances of recurrence after chemotherapy medication are minimal.

Bladder Cancer from a Different Origin (Secondary Cancer)

In some cases, a cancer can start from other regions or organs of the body and spread to the bladder. For example, it can start from the neighboring organs. Examples of such types of cancers are:

Bladder cancers which come from a different origin are called bladder secondary cancers. The cancerous cells of secondary cancers resemble those of the primary cancers. Hence, they share the same type of medication.

Bottom Line

In summary, the types of bladder cancers are:

  • Transitional cell bladder cancer
  • Non-invasive bladder cancer
  • Invasive bladder cancer
  • Squamous bladder cancer
  • Adenocarcinoma

The difference in the origin and characteristics of these types of bladder cancers makes the treatment options different, as well. Some bladder cancer types, such as transitional cell cancer, have no chances of recurrence.