Bladder cancer

Symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis and how to detect bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer, also known as vesical cancer, occurs when the cells of this organ undergo changes and begin to multiply uncontrollably, forming a tumor.

Approximately 75% of patients present with non-muscle-invasive tumors, meaning that the disease is confined to the mucosa (stages Ta or Carcinoma in situ (CIS)) or submucosa (T1). Non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer has a high prevalence due to long-term survival in many cases and a lower risk of mortality compared to patients diagnosed with muscle-invasive bladder cancer.

The presence of blood in the urine (hematuria) is the primary symptom associated with bladder cancer.

On the other hand, urinary discomfort may also occur, including the need to urinate more frequently and in small amounts, pain or burning during urination, or the urge to urinate right after finishing.

Tobacco is the primary risk factor associated with bladder cancer, accounting for approximately 50% of cases. This risk increases with higher tobacco consumption and over a longer period.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age; bladder cancer predominantly affects individuals over the age of 50.
  • Exposure to certain industrial chemicals (certain metals, dyes, and petroleum-derived products).
  • Exposure to certain drugs or radiotherapies.
  • Consumption of chlorinated water.
  • Chronic cystitis or infections such as schistosomiasis, an infection caused by a parasite commonly found in Africa and certain regions of Latin America

When bladder cancer is suspected, certain tests must be performed to confirm it and to determine the tumor subtype and the stage of the disease:

  • Complete medical history
  • General blood analysis
  • Urinalysis
  • Abdominal and urinary tract ultrasound
  • Cystoscopy
  • CT scan (in some cases)
  • In case of suspected metastasis, additional tests may be performed.

Other pathologies

EAU Guidelines on Non-muscle-invasive Bladder Cancer (TaT1 and CIS). 2023 [Internet]. Available at: (Last accessed: September 2023)

Babjuk M et al. Guía clínica sobre el cáncer de vejiga TaT1 (sin invasión muscular). European Association of Urology. 2010. Available at: (Last accessed: September 2023)

NIH. ¿Qué es el cáncer de vejiga? [Internet]. Available at:,la%20parte%20inferior%20del%20abdomen. (Last accessed: September 2023)

López López R. Diagnóstico analítico del cáncer de vejiga. Análisis clínicos. OFFARM. Ed Elsevier. 2001; 20(9): 144-149.

Chara Velarde L, et al. Cáncer de vejiga. Medicine. 2021; 13(26):1441-53.