Bladder Cancer

One of the largest programs in the nation for the diagnosis and/or treatment of bladder cancer

As Georgia’s largest and most comprehensive cancer program, Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (NHCI) is an experienced provider of cancer care for individuals diagnosed with bladder cancer.

What Is Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer is cancer that starts in the bladder. The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower abdomen or pelvis. Its main function is to hold and release urine. Bladder cancer often starts from the cells lining the bladder. These cells are called transitional cells.

Bladder cancers are classified by the way they grow:

  • Papillary tumors look like warts and are attached to a stalk.
  • Nonpapillary (sessile) tumors are flat. They are much less common and much more invasive.

Learn more about bladder cancer.

Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Since the presence of bladder cancer can cause more noticeable symptoms than some other types of cancer, it can often be found early. Symptoms of early stage bladder cancer can include:

  • Blood in the urine.
  • Changes in bladder habits or symptoms of irritation.
  • Painful urination.
  • Increased urinary frequency and/or urgency.

Symptoms of more advanced bladder cancer can include:

  • Lower back pain on one side.
  • Bone pain or tenderness, if the cancer has spread to the bone.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Inability to urinate.
  • Swelling in the feet.
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss.

Learn more about bladder cancer symptoms.

Bladder Cancer Risk Factors

The exact cause of bladder cancer is not known, but there are several risk factors that make a person more likely to develop bladder cancer, including:

  • Smoking – Up to half of all bladder cancers in men and women are caused by cigarette smoke. Smokers are at least three times more likely to get bladder cancer than non-smokers are.
  • Chemical exposure – About 1 in 4 cases of bladder cancer is caused by coming into contact with cancer-causing chemicals, or carcinogens. Dye workers, rubber workers, aluminum workers, leather workers, truck drivers, and pesticide applicators are at high risk.
  • The use of certain medicines or herbal supplements.
  • Exposure to arsenic in drinking water.
  • History of chronic bladder infections and irritations.
  • Personal or family history of bladder cancer or other urothelial (lining of the urinary tract) cancer.
  • Genetic factors including a mutation of the retinoblastoma (RB1) gene, Cowden disease and Lynch syndrome.
  • Prior chemotherapy treatment with cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan).
  • Prior radiation therapy treatment to the pelvis.

As part of our comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and education, Northside offers Built To Quit, a smoking and tobacco cessation program offering resources to help individuals quit smoking and stop using other tobacco products. For additional information please call 404-780-7653 or email or click on the button below to register online for an upcoming class.

Built to Quit Class Schedule (English)
Built to Quit Class Schedule (Spanish)

Cancer Genetics Program

Northside Hospital’s Cancer Genetics Program is available to patients interested in genetic counseling and testing due to strong personal or family histories of certain genetic factors that can cause bladder cancer. Our team of certified genetic counselors help patients assess, understand and reduce the risk of developing certain types of genetically influenced cancer such as bladder cancer. For additional information, please call 404-851-6284 or email

Bladder Cancer Diagnosis

Bladder cancer incidence is increasing both nationally and here in Georgia. In 2018, it was expected that nearly 2,000 Georgians would be diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Northside’s Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program uses the following tests and procedures to diagnose bladder cancer after a physical examination (including a rectal and pelvic exam) has been completed:

If tests confirm that bladder cancer is present, additional tests will be done to see if the cancer has spread. This is called staging. Staging helps providers guide future treatment and determine appropriate follow-up care.

Team of Bladder Cancer Specialists

The strength of Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program is our multidisciplinary team of dedicated, specially trained urologic cancer specialists who work together to provide individualized medical care for each cancer patient. Northside’s urologic cancer care team offers a comprehensive scope of medical services, the latest technology, leading-edge clinical research and compassionate cancer support. Our prostate and urologic cancer multidisciplinary care team consists of:

  • Urologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Certified genetic counselors
  • Oncology nurse navigators
  • Clinical research nurses

Our urologic cancer experts meet regularly to prospectively discuss bladder cancer patients and agree upon evidence-based Bladder Cancer Treatment Options for each patient. This forum provides our medical specialists with the opportunity to discuss specific bladder cancer cases, national treatment guidelines and each bladder cancer patient’s unique life circumstances in order to develop an effective cancer treatment plan.


Bladder Cancer Treatment Options

Our Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program team is committed to providing high quality treatment options to bladder cancer patients and to making access to cancer care as convenient as possible. Every case of bladder cancer is different and treatment options can vary. Several factors play a role in determining the most appropriate course for treating the disease – age and health of the patient, stage of the disease, and benefits and side effects of each treatment option.

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute bladder cancer specialists and supportive cancer care team members work together to ensure all patients receive a personalized, evidence-based treatment plan specific to their cancer needs.

Expand the content below to learn more about each bladder cancer treatment option.

Learn more about Cancer Treatment Options available at NHCI

Bladder Cancer Support & Survivorship

Bladder cancer treatment and recovery can be overwhelming, which is why we have oncology nurse navigators to guide you every step of your cancer journey. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s nurse navigators are registered nurses with extensive knowledge and training in oncology, available to help guide patients after bladder cancer diagnoses and through treatment, educating and supporting cancer patients to make informed decisions. The cancer patient navigation team works with radiologists, pathologists, urologists, oncologists and other urologic cancer specialists to coordinate treatment.

Support provided by oncology nurse navigators includes:

  • Clinical information and education on bladder cancers.
  • Answering questions about diagnosis, treatments and any side effects experienced.
  • Starting and facilitating communication between the patient and their care team.
  • Access to emotional and psychological support, including referrals to the right counseling services and support groups.
  • Monitoring each patient’s health and overall cancer treatment progress.

To learn more about oncology patient navigation or to speak with an oncology nurse navigator, please call 404-300-2800 or email

Ongoing support is crucial when facing bladder cancer and afterward. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute provides a full range of support and survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of each cancer patient.