Bladder cancer: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Written by: Professor Francis Chinegwundoh MBE
Edited by: Emma McLeod

Bladder cancer is a cancer that starts in the lining of the bladder. Around 10,200 people are newly diagnosed with bladder cancer every year. It affects mainly older people and rarely happens in people under the age of 40. In fact, around 60 per cent of cases occur in people over 75 years old. Also, more men than woman suffer from this cancer.

A person's hands clasped around another person's hand in a gesture of support.


Passing blood in urine (haematuria) is the most common way that bladder cancer presents itself. The bleeding is not usually painful, but passing blood in urine should lead to medical attention – talk to your GP or a specialist urgently if you notice blood in your urine.


Risk factors

The risk factors for bladder cancer include:

  1. Smoking
  2. Exposure to industrial chemicals
  3. Working in the rubber industry
  4. Chronic bladder infections


The main way you can prevent it is by not smoking.



The GP will refer you to a urologist (a surgeon who deals with disorders of the urinary system) for further investigation as not all bleeding in the urine is due to bladder cancer.


The investigations include a CT scan of the urinary system (kidneys, ureters and bladder) and a camera inspection of the inside of the bladder (flexible cystoscopy).



The majority of bladder cancers can be treated by using a special instrument passed into the bladder to remove the growth. This operation is called TURBT (transurethral resection of a bladder tumour). It’s performed while the patient is under a general anaesthetic.


The removed growth is analysed in the laboratory to confirm bladder cancer and the type of the bladder cancer. Importantly, it will look at whether the cancer is just in the lining (called the Ta/T1 stage) or deeper into the actual muscle of the bladder (called the T2/T3 stage).


Further treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. It may involve:

  • Regular flexible cystoscopy inspections of the bladder
  • Removal of the bladder altogether (cystectomy)
  • Radiation treatment


If the bladder needs to be removed, it may be possible to fashion a new bladder from a segment of the bowel.


At times, the bladder cancer can spread around the body (a process called metastases). If this is the case, treatment involves using powerful chemotherapy drugs or newer immunotherapy agents. Such treatments are supervised by an oncologist.


Don’t hesitate to get professional advice if you’re worried about your urological health – click here to discover how Professor Francis Chinegwundoh MBU can help you.

By Professor Francis Chinegwundoh MBE

Professor Francis Chinegwundoh MBE is a renowned consultant urologist based in London, who specialises in treating prostate cancer, benign prostate enlargement, erectile dysfunction, and a wide variety of other urological conditions. Professor Chinegwundoh also provides medicolegal services. In addition to treating patients, he is a widely published researcher, lecturer, and professor, actively involved in teaching and also involved in charity work as Chairman of the charity Cancer Black Care and a trustee of Tackle prostate cancer. He was recognised with an MBE in 2013 for services to the NHS.

Since qualifying in medicine in 1984 from the University of London, Professor Chinegwundoh has accrued a wealth of experience and expertise. He obtained a Master of Surgery degree in 1994 and more recently a Master of Medical Law in 2010. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Edinburgh as well as a Fellow of the European Board of Urology. He established and runs the regional prostate low dose brachytherapy service at Barts Health NHS Trust. He has performed over 100 transurethral needle ablation of the prostate for benign prostate enlargement and over 1500 transperineal template prostate biopsies. He is also a medical legal expert.

Professor Chinegwundoh is currently urology lead at Newham University Hospital, Barts Health NHS Trust and past chairman of the Prostate Cancer Advisory Group. He serves as an honorary clinical senior lecturer at Queen Mary’s College, University of London and has been an honorary visiting Professor in the School of Health Sciences, City University, London since December 2014.

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