Doctor and patient discussing bladder cancer

Bladder Cancer Challenge

High unmet needs for detection, diagnosis and management in the early, non-muscle-invasive stages of bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer is a major challenge around the world. Improving the way this disease is detected, diagnosed and managed, can save many lives. Equally important, it can improve patients' quality of life, while helping health systems and payers to reduce costs and provide care to more people.

A frequently occurring cancer

Bladder cancer is a huge and growing challenge globally. For example, within the United States alone, nearly 700,000 people have bladder cancer. In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimated that for the year there were 62,380 men and 18,810 women diagnosed with bladder cancer and a total of 17,240 deaths (12,240 men and 4,630 women) as a result of it.

81,190 new cases

New cases of bladder cancer (2018 U.S.)

4.7% of cancers

Bladder cancer as a percentage of all new cancer cases (2011-2015 U.S.)

17,240 deaths

Estimated deaths from bladder cancer 2018 (2018, U.S.)

4th highest in men

Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in males (2018, U.S.)

(Data source:, )

According to the US National Cancer Institute, about 2.3 % of people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer at some point in their life. Bladder cancer affects men more frequently than women and is the fourth highest cancer found in men. The disease tends to occur mainly in older people: 90% of people diagnosed with bladder cancer are above 55 years old, with an average age of 72.

Data Source: US SEER 18 2011-2015, All Races, Both Sexes (National Cancer Institute)

Types and stages of bladder cancer

Bladder cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells of the bladder begin growing
- and spreading - quickly. This problem usually begins within the lining of the bladder. At that stage, it is called non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC). However, the cancerous cells may later spread into the muscular wall of the bladder, at which stage it is described as muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC). If still uncontrolled, the cancerous condition can spread to other organs around the body.

Bladder cross section

Reproduced from Bladder Cancer: A Patient-Friendly Guide to Understanding Your Diagnosis and Treatment Options. Copyright © 2017 David Pulve

Bladder cancer is classified into two types, depending on the depth of invasion in the bladder wall:

  • Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) is still in the inner layer of cells that line the bladder. The most common (70 percent) of all bladder cancer cases, include the subtypes Ta, carcinoma in situ (CIS) and T1 lesions.
  • Muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC) is when the cancer has grown into deeper layers of the muscle wall of the bladder. These cancers are more likely to spread to other organs and are harder to treat. These cancers include the subtypes T2, T3 and T4.

Bladder Cancer Stages

Early bladder cancer detection, diagnosis and management

As with many other cancers, early detection and accurate diagnosis are essential for successfully managing bladder cancer and battling against recurrence.

Approximately 70% of bladder cancers are diagnosed while the cancer is still inside the inner layer of the bladder wall. This stage of cancer is called non-invasive bladder cancer or NMIBC). (Source)

To diagnose bladder cancer based on urinary symptoms, the physician collects the patient's medical history and performs urine tests and cultures, to check for blood, infections and other abnormal cells. If there are suspicions of bladder cancer or positive findings from testing, a urologist will perform cystoscopy to look into the patient's bladder.

Learn more about cystoscopy.

If suspicious lesions are found at the first cystoscopy, the patients will then be referred for surgery (TURBT) in the operating room, where suspected areas will be biopsied and removed when the patient is under anesthesia. The samples from the biopsy are tested, and a final diagnosis with the disease's stage and grade (level of development), risk level and a program for treatment and follow up.

From this point, the process for managing non-muscle invasive bladder cancer includes continued cycles of follow up inspections using cystoscopy, and treatments if the follow-ups show signs that the cancerous cells are present.

Since the outlook for patients drops, if the cancer progresses from the non-muscle invasive stage, there is a need to improve the precision and impact of current approaches to cancer management.

Learn more about the patient's bladder cancer journey.

Survival rates for bladder cancer by stage

Early detection and correct diagnosis play a significant role in terms of successfully managing and surviving the cancer.

The US National Cancer Institute's data shows that the 5-year survival rates for bladder cancer are:


Expensive to manage

A recent paper, "Economic Burden of Bladder Cancer Across the European Union" (source: Leal, et al, 2016) estimates that bladder cancer cost the region EU €4.9 billion in 2012. This amounted to 3 percent of all cancer costs. The scale of this cost underlines the need to improve both the diagnosis and the management of bladder cancer for the benefit of patients, healthcare systems and payers.

An opportunity to transform bladder cancer management

Better control of this condition can save many lives, improve the quality of life of patients and reduce the cost of managing it. Improving the speed and accuracy of early detection and diagnosis of bladder cancer is therefore hugely valuable. The more cancer tumors detected and the more complete the surgery, the lower the chance that bladder cancer will recur and progress. Currently the most common method of bladder cancer detection involves white light cystoscopy. However, there are many new and complementary methods that improve bladder cancer detection, diagnosis and management, including Photocure's blue light cystoscopy (BLC™) with Hexvix®/Cysview®.

Learn more about bladder cancer treatment options.