Bladder Cancer Screening

What is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder and other urothelial cancers are diseases in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the urothelium. The urothelium is a layer of tissue that lines the urethra, bladder, ureters, prostate, and renal pelvis. Cancer that begins in the urothelium of the bladder is much more common than cancer that begins in the urothelium of the urethra, ureters, prostate, or renal pelvis.

There are three types of cancer that begin in the urothelial cells of the bladder. These cancers are named for the type of cells that become cancerous:

  • Transitional cell carcinoma is cancer that begins in cells in the innermost layer of the bladder urothelium. These cells are able to stretch when the bladder is full and shrink when it is emptied. Most bladder cancers begin in the transitional cells.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is cancer that forms in squamous cells (thin, flat cells that line the bladder). Cancer may form after long-term infection or irritation.
  • Adenocarcinoma is cancer that begins in glandular cells. Glandular cells in the bladder urothelium make substances such as mucus.

Facts and Figures

Bladder cancer is more common in men than women.  In Missouri, bladder cancer occurred about four times more often in men than in women in 2015.  Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the state, and ranks sixth in number of deaths from cancer.

Screening Recommendation

At this time, the United States Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend routine screening of the general public for bladder cancer. This is because no screening test has been shown to lower the risk of dying from bladder cancer in people who are at average risk.

Screening Tests

Bladder cancer is often found because of signs or symptoms a person is having or it might be found because of lab tests a person gets for another reason.  Like most cancers, finding it early improves the likelihood that treatment will work.

While there are no standardized screening tests recommended for adults with no symptoms of bladder cancer, there are tests that providers will recommend for people with a high risk of developing bladder cancer, such as people who have had bladder cancer before, people who were born with certain bladder defects and people exposed to certain chemicals in the workplace. These tests may include computerized tomography (CT) or urine tests.

Bladder Cancer Prevention

There is no sure way to prevent bladder cancer.  Some risk factors for bladder cancer like age, race, family history, and gender cannot be controlled.  However, there are ways to reduce overall bladder cancer risk.

Avoid Tobacco

The most common risk factor for bladder cancer is cigarette smoking.  Smoking cigars and pipes can also raise the risk of developing bladder cancer. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, smokers are four to seven times more likely to develop bladder cancer than nonsmokers.

Tobacco smoke has at least 70 chemicals that cause cancer, also known as carcinogens. Every time tobacco smoke is inhaled, those chemicals get into the bloodstream, which carries them to all parts of the body. Many of these chemicals can damage DNA, which controls how the body makes new cells and directs each kind of cell to do what it is meant to do.  Damaged DNA can make cells grow differently.  These unusual cells can turn into cancer.

Bladder Cancer Prevention Resources

The Missouri Tobacco Quitline can help current smokers quit by assigning registered participants with a trained quit coach to make a plan to stop smoking.  The Quitline can be accessed by dialing 1-800-QUIT-NOW or at

Limit Exposure to Chemicals

Chemicals used in the textile, rubber, leather, dye, paint, and print industries; some naturally occurring chemicals; and chemicals called aromatic amines can increase the risk of bladder cancer.  Limiting exposure to these chemicals in the workplace can reduce bladder cancer risk.

Sources / Resources