What are the Types of Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer is not a single disease but a group of cancers that occur in the bladder tissues. Understanding the different types of bladder cancer is crucial for diagnosis and treatment. This article provides detailed explanations of the various types of bladder cancer, making this complex information accessible to all.

Urothelial Carcinoma

The most prevalent type of bladder cancer is urothelial carcinoma, previously known as transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). This type of cancer develops in the urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder. These cells are unique because they can stretch when the bladder is full and shrink when it is empty. Urothelial carcinoma accounts for about 90% of all bladder cancers and can also occur in the ureters and urethra, where the same type of lining is found.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a rare form of bladder cancer in the United States and other Western countries, accounting for about 1-5% of bladder cancers. It often develops following chronic irritation of the bladder, for instance, from an infection or long-term catheter use. Over time, the irritation can lead to squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that can become cancerous.


Adenocarcinoma of the bladder is also rare, making up about 1-2% of bladder cancers. This type forms in glandular cells that are present in the bladder lining, which are responsible for producing mucus. Adenocarcinoma can be difficult to distinguish from other forms of cancer because it shares characteristics common to glandular cells found in other organs.

Small Cell Carcinoma

Small cell carcinoma of the bladder is a very rare type and represents less than 1% of bladder cancers. It starts in neuroendocrine cells and tends to grow and spread more quickly than other bladder cancers. Because of its rarity and aggressive nature, small cell carcinoma requires specialized treatment strategies.

Muscle-Invasive and Non-Muscle-Invasive

While technically not different types in terms of the cells they originate from, bladder cancers are also classified based on whether they invade the muscle layer of the bladder. Non-muscle-invasive bladder cancers are confined to the inner layers of the bladder and have not spread to the muscular bladder wall. This type is more common and generally has a better prognosis. Muscle-invasive bladder cancers have grown into or through the muscle layers of the bladder and are more likely to spread and be life-threatening.


The types of bladder cancer vary primarily in the kinds of cells they originate from and their potential to spread. Each type requires a specific approach in terms of treatment and management. Recognizing the differences between these types can aid in understanding the disease's progression, treatment options, and prognosis. For those diagnosed with or at risk for bladder cancer, understanding these distinctions is key to managing and addressing this complex group of diseases effectively. If you suspect any symptoms of bladder cancer or are at risk, it's crucial to consult with healthcare professionals for proper screening and potential early treatment.


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