Bladder cancer is also known as urothelial carcinoma. Urothelial cells line the urinary tract, including the urethra, bladder, and ureters and renal pelvis in the kidneys. These urothelial or transitional cells are in contact with urine. Bladder cancer happens when those cells in the bladder start to grow out of control.
Smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke increases the risk of developing bladder cancer. In addition, people exposed to occupational or environmental chemicals may have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer. White people are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as are Black people or Hispanic people, and older age is another risk factor. Health history also matters, with chronic bladder inflammation, such as urinary tract infections or kidney stones, as well as a personal or family history of bladder cancer, associated with risk of the disease.
Many people are unaware of the common signs of bladder cancer, such as blood in the urine, known as hematuria. If blood in the urine can be seen, this is called gross hematuria. When a physician runs a urinalysis test as part of a routine checkup, tiny amounts of blood may be detected. This is microscopic hematuria. Any blood seen in the urine should be checked by a physician. Irritation when urinating, urgency and frequency are other warning signs. These signs may also be from other causes, such as a urinary tract infection, kidney stones or aging.