Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is cancer that develops in one of the four layers of the bladder, the organ that stores urine before it passes out of the body. About 75,000 new cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.

UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center – the only National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in North Texas – delivers comprehensive, state-of-the-art care to people with bladder cancer. Our team is uniquely involved in developing better detection strategies, the use of new surgical techniques, and delivering precise radiation therapy to spare normal tissue.

Meet the Team

Our bladder cancer specialists include:

See all of our specialists who treat bladder cancer and other genitourinary cancers specialists.


Transitional cell (urothelial) carcinomas make up more than 90 percent of bladder cancer cases. Tumors are either papillary carcinomas or flat carcinomas.

Other very rare types of cancer that can arise in the bladder include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Small-cell carcinoma
  • Sarcoma

Risk Factors

Risk factors for bladder cancer include:

  • Smoking – People who smoke develop bladder cancer at more than three times the rate as those who don’t, and smoking contributes to about half of all cases of the disease
  • Workplace exposure to some industrial chemicals
  • Gender – Men develop bladder cancer at about three times the rate women do
  • Ethnicity – Caucasians develop bladder cancer at about twice the rate of African Americans
  • Age – About 90 percent of people with bladder cancer are older than 55
  • Chronic bladder irritation and infections
  • Genetic syndromes such as Cowden syndrome and Lynch syndrome
  • Certain cancer treatments, including longtime use of the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide and pelvic radiation therapy


Early-stage bladder cancer – as well a number of non-cancerous conditions – often causes symptoms that include:

  • Blood in the urine, present in about 90 percent of cases
  • More frequent urination than usual
  • Pain or a burning sensation during urination
  • Urgently feeling the need to urinate even when the bladder is not full

Symptoms of more advanced bladder cancer can include:

  • Inability to pass urine
  • Lower back pain on one side
  • Swelling of the feet
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Bone pain


Bladder cancer is often discovered in its early stages because of its symptoms – and typically diagnosed with urodynamic testing, cystoscopy, or urinary-tract imaging.

UT Southwestern researchers including urologist Yair Lotan, M.D., are working to develop methods to detect bladder cancer biomarkers and better screen for the disease.

Learn more about diagnosis of genitourinary cancers.


Treatment for bladder cancer depends on its characteristics and stage, as well as patients’ overall health, preferences, and goals. Options include:

  • Surgery, with either a minimally invasive transurethral procedure to remove the tumor or a cystectomy, which removes part or all of the bladder. Learn more about surgery for genitourinary cancers.
  • Medical treatment, which includes chemotherapy drugs or drugs inserted directly into the bladder (intravesical therapy) – both of which kill the cancer cells. Learn more about medical treatments for genitourinary cancers.
  • Radiation therapy, which is combined with chemotherapy for a bladder preservation strategy or added to surgery as an adjuvant treatment. Learn more about radiation therapy for genitourinary cancers.

UT Southwestern’s comprehensive approach to patient care means our team also strives to help patients with issues such as pain management, nutrition, psychosocial adjustments, and cancer’s impact on their families.

Clinical Trials

UT Southwestern offers clinical trials that may provide you with an opportunity to complement traditional therapy for genitourinary cancer with the newest, most promising treatment strategies. Talk with your doctor to determine if a clinical trial is right for you.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a bladder cancer specialist, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.