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What is Bladder Cancer?

Female Urinary Tract
Female urinary tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the body. These extra cells grow together and form masses called tumors. In bladder cancer, these tumors form in the bladder. The bladder is where urine (liquid waste made by the kidneys) is stored in the body.

In 2015, more than 74,000 Americans will be diagnosed with bladder cancer. Men are almost 4 times more likely than women to be diagnosed. About 16,000 Americans will die of bladder cancer this year. Over time, doctors have made progress with better treatments, and more people survive.

To understand bladder cancer, it helps to know how the bladder normally works.

The Bladder

Male Urinary Tract
Male urinary tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

The bladder is a hollow, balloon-shaped organ, made mostly of muscle. It stores urine until you are ready to go to the bathroom to release it.

Urine is produced in the kidneys. It flows through tubes called ureters into the bladder. Urine leaves the body through the urethra. The bladder muscle helps you urinate by squeezing to force the urine out.

A thin surface layer called the urothelium lines the inside of the bladder. Next is a layer of loose connective tissue called the lamina propria. Covering that tissue is the bladder muscle. Outside the muscle is a layer of fat.

Layers of the Bladder
Layers of the bladder
Image © 2003 Fairman Studios, LLC.