What are the types of bladder cancer?

Bladder and kidneys diagram

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Transitional cell bladder cancer (TCC)

The most common type of bladder cancer is transitional cell bladder cancer (TCC), which is also called urothelial cancer. It starts in the transitional cells in the lining of the bladder. 

There are 2 types of TCC:

  1. Non-muscle-invasive (superficial) bladder cancer.
    This is earlier TCC that hasn’t invaded the deeper muscles of the bladder.
  2. Muscle invasive bladder cancer.
    This is TCC that has grown deeper into the bladder wall, into the muscle layer. 

Knowing the type of bladder cancer you have will help your medical team to decide on the best treatment for you.

Non-muscle-invasive (superficial) bladder cancer

This cancer only affects the lining of the bladder and hasn't grown into the deeper layers of the bladder wall.

It usually appears as small growths, growing out of the bladder lining, which can be removed easily in a short operation. You can have more operations if the cancer comes back. 

Some types are more likely to come back. These include: carcinoma in situ (CIS), T1 tumours and high-grade tumours. Read more about bladder cancer grades

Carcinoma in situ (CIS): This type appears as red ulcers inside your bladder. The cells are very abnormal and can grow quickly.
T1 tumours: These are superficial cancers that have grown from the bladder lining into the next layer (the lamina propria).

Carcinoma in situ and T1 tumours can grow quickly and sometimes spread to the muscle wall in the bladder and nearby tissues. This is known as muscle-invasive bladder cancer.

If you smoke...

You can reduce your chances of the cancer returning if you stop smoking. Read tips on giving up smoking

Muscle-invasive bladder cancer

Muscle-invasive bladder cancer is when the cancer cells have grown into the muscle layer of the bladder, or beyond. Muscle-invasive bladder cancer needs more intensive treatment than non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. This is because there is a risk that it could spread to other parts of the body.

Rarer types of bladder cancer 

Squamous cell bladder cancer: This rare type of bladder cancer starts in the squamous cells, which make up the tissues that line our organs. Squamous cell bladder cancer is usually muscle invasive.

Adenocarcinoma: This is a very rare bladder cancer. Adenocarcinoma starts in cells that produce mucus in the lining of  our body organs. It is usually muscle invasive.

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