About 70,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer in the United States every year. Most patients are older (above the age of 60) and the disease is much more common in men (by a ratio of 3 to 1). However, the incidence of female bladder cancer is increasing, probably as a result of the increase of smoking among women.

Ureteral cancer is a cancer that arises in the ducts that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder (the ureters). It is essentially the same kind of malignancy as bladder cancer.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The most common symptom of bladder or ureteral cancer is visible (or microscopic) blood in the urine. Occasionally, bladder irritability and frequent urination can be symptoms of these malignancies. People who notice blood in the urine or other symptoms should be evaluated by a physician immediately, because outcomes are correlated with the length of time between symptom onset and treatment.

Bladder/ureteral cancer arises in the cells that line these organs. The disease appears to be caused by carcinogens excreted in the urine. Inhaled tobacco is the most common source of these carcinogens, but occupational exposure to certain industrial chemicals can also play a role. In addition, there may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and incidence of bladder cancer.

Patients with symptoms of bladder or ureteral cancer may have select lab tests to rule out other causes:

  • Many patients undergo a CT urogram, a CT scan of the urinary tract using a contrast medium.
  • Another common diagnostic procedure is cystoscopy, in which a flexible endoscopy telescope is inserted into the urethra and used to inspect the lining of the bladder.

Bladder and Ureteral Cancer Treatment and Reconstruction

The goal of treatment for bladder cancer and ureteral cancer is to cure the disease while maintaining the patient’s urinary function. Achieving these goals requires a team approach (“interdisciplinary care”). In the Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program, physicians who specialize in surgical, radiation oncology, medical oncology (drug and hormone therapies) and reconstructive surgery work together to devise an optimal treatment plan for each patient. Learn more about:

Clinical Trials for Bladder and Ureteral Cancer

For appropriate patients, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin offer several investigational therapies for bladder and ureteral cancers. These rigorously controlled clinical trials focus on finding new ways to prevent the return of cancer after surgery and slow down the progression of advanced disease. Trials are available for both non-invasive and muscle-invasive cancers as well as advanced metastatic disease. View our list of bladder cancer clinical trials.