Cancer Council Australia
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Bladder cancer

Incidence and mortality

In 2011, 2404 new cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed in Australia. It is significantly more common in men - the risk of bladder cancer by age 85 is 1 in 43 for men, compared to 1 in 166 for women.

In 2012, there were 1038 deaths caused by bladder cancer in Australia.


No screening test is routinely used for bladder cancer.

Symptoms and diagnosis

The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine (haematuria), which usually occurs suddenly and is generally not painful.

Other less common symptoms include:

  • problems emptying the bladder
  • a burning feeling when passing urine
  • need to pass urine often.

Tests used to diagnose bladder cancer include:

  • urine test
  • blood test
  • intravenous pyelogram
  • liver and abdominal ultrasound scan
  • cytoscopy and biopsy.


A CT scan, bone (radioisotope) scan and chest x-ray are done to determine the extent of the cancer (its stage).

The most common staging system used for bladder cancer is the TNM system, which describes the stage of the cancer from stage I to stage IV.


The exact causes of bladder cancer are not known, however factors that put some people at higher risk are:

  • smoking cigarettes
  • workplace exposure to certain chemicals used in dyeing in the textile, petrochemical and rubber industries
  • use of the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide (which can increase the long-term risk of bladder cancer).

Chronic inflammation of the bladder has been linked to squamous cell carcinoma of the bladder.


Not smoking or quitting smoking, and avoiding exposure to chemicals listed above.


Superficial bladder cancers are treated with surgery (transurethral resection) and/or immunotherapy, or sometimes chemotherapy instilled into the bladder.

Invasive bladder cancers are most commonly treated with surgery, although radiotherapy is an alternative treatment. In some cases chemotherapy may be added.

If surgery is not an option, the cancer may be treated with radiotherapy, with or without chemotherapy, or chemotherapy alone (platinum and gemcitabine).


An individual's prognosis depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as their age and general health at the time of diagnosis.

Bladder cancer can be effectively treated if it is found early, before it spreads outside the bladder. The five year survival rate for Australians with bladder cancer is 58%.

For more information, contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 (cost of a local call).


For more information


  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012. Cancer survival and prevalence in Australia: period estimates from 1982 to 2010. Cancer Series no. 69. Cat. no. CAN 65. Canberra: AIHW.
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2015. ACIM (Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality) Books. Canberra: AIHW.
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Australasian Association of Cancer Registries 2012. Cancer in Australia: an overview, 2012. Cancer series no. 74. Cat. no. CAN 70. Canberra: AIHW.

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This page was last updated on: Friday, June 5, 2015