Cancer that is confined to the lining of the bladder is called superficial bladder cancer. Cancer that begins in the transitional cells may spread through the lining of the bladder and invade the muscle wall of the bladder or spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes; this is called invasive bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is categorized into various types, depending on the type of cell in which it began. The type of bladder cancer you are diagnosed with will determine which treatment options may work best.

The most common type of bladder cancer is urothelial carcinoma, which makes up about 90% of all bladder cancers. Urothelial carcinoma, also called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), begins in the urothelial cells that line the urethra, bladder, ureters, and other areas within the urinary tract.

Less common types of bladder cancer include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 4% of all bladder cancers. Squamous cells will look similar to the flat cells on the skin's surface and develop in response to irritation and inflammation.
  • Adenocarcinoma develops from gland-forming cells. It accounts for roughly 2% of bladder cancers.
    Sarcoma begins in the fat or muscle layers of the bladder wall.
  • Small-cell carcinoma is a rare type of bladder cancer that begins in neuroendocrine cells. This type of bladder cancer is likely to spread to other parts of the body.

Other Ways Bladder Cancer is Described

Along with its cell type, bladder cancer may also be described based upon how far it has spread into the bladder wall.

Invasive vs non-invasive bladder cancer

Bladder cancer can be either invasive or noninvasive.
  • Invasive. Invasive cancers have grown into the deep layers of the bladder wall. They are more likely to spread and are often harder to treat.
  • Noninvasive. Noninvasive cancers are only in the inner layer of cells (the transitional epithelium), meaning they have not grown into the deeper layers.

Muscle invasive vs non-muscle invasive bladder cancer

Bladder cancer can also be described as muscle-invasive. Muscle-invasive means cancer has grown into the primary muscle of the bladder.

Bladder cancer can also be non-muscle invasive, meaning cancer cells are only in the inner lining of the bladder. Non-muscle invasive may also be referred to as superficial bladder cancer; however, that doesn’t make it any less serious.

You can review other important information about diagnosing bladder cancer, staging the disease, and bladder cancer treatment options on our website or you can request a consultation with one of our bladder cancer specialists at our offices in Portland and Vancouver where they can answer questions specific to your individual diagnosis.

Find a Medical Oncologist in Portland-Vancouver

Signs & Symptoms of Bladder Cancer


Unfortunately, signs and symptoms of bladder cancer don't appear until the cancer has become more advanced. While some people with bladder cancer may experience signs and symptoms, other people with bladder cancer experience no changes at all.

Risks Factors of Bladder Cancer


A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of developing a disease like bladder cancer. Some risk factors like smoking and chemical exposure can be controlled, while others, such as age and genetics, cannot.

Detecting & Diagnosing Bladder Cancer


If your doctor suspects that you may have bladder cancer, he/she will usually perform a physical exam and order blood tests to look for cancerous cells before making a bladder cancer diagnosis.

Bladder Cancer Staging


The various stages of bladder cancer range from Stage 0 to Stage IV. In order to plan the best cancer treatment options, your oncologist will need to assess the stage of your cancer by ordering various tests.

Bladder Cancer Treatment Options


At Compass Oncology, after a bladder cancer diagnosis, one of our cancer specialists will work together with you to develop a treatment plan that’s best for you based on the type of bladder cancer, the stage, your overall health, and other various other factors. Your treatment plan may include one or more of the following:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Bladder Cancer Research & Clinical Trials


Compass Oncology, in affiliation with the US Oncology Network, offers bladder cancer clinical research trials for patients in the Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA areas. Since our partnership with US Oncology, our patients have participated in clinical research trials that have led to new cancer therapies being approved by the FDA.

Support Services for Bladder Cancer Patients


From second opinions to patient benefits representatives and oncology social workers, the support specialists at Compass Oncology are here to help and guide you through your cancer journey. We also encourage you to learn more and take advantage of both our Compass Oncology cancer support groups as well as other local bladder cancer support groups in and around Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA.