May is World Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. Here’s what to know about bladder cancer’s signs and symptoms, plus how to get involved in the fight against this often-overlooked disease.

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Among the many colorful ribbons for cancer awareness, in May, you might notice an uptick in the ones colored blue, yellow, and purple, representing bladder cancer. May is World Bladder Cancer Awareness Month.

Although bladder cancer is relatively common, it doesn’t often receive the attention or research funding of other more prevalent cancers.

The aim of this month is to bring increased awareness to people living with bladder cancer and encourage people to watch for signs and symptoms. To that end, the theme for 2023’s awareness month is “Feeling unsure? Get checked.”

Here’s how to join the charge against bladder cancer, plus how to recognize symptoms that may indicate this condition.

Learn more about bladder cancer.

Although bladder cancer may not get as much press as cancers of the breast, lungs, or skin, it’s more common than you might think.

Every year, over 570,000 people receive a diagnosis of this disease, according to the World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition. Bladder cancer is the 10th most common cancer worldwide.

May offers an opportunity for people living with this cancer to share their stories publicly — look for their stories with the hashtags #BladderCancer and #BladdersMatter on social media — as well as for friends, loved ones, and other supporters to raise awareness and funds for research.

In May, every bit of support for bladder cancer helps.

For a simple way to spread awareness, like or follow a bladder cancer support organization on social media, such as the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN), and share their posts.

Or, if you’ve experienced bladder cancer yourself, now is the time to share a personal story on your social media or via an email or letter to friends and family.

You can also take action by participating in a walk to end bladder cancer. Check out BCAN’s list of 2023 walks. These events take place nationwide. You can participate in a virtual walk from any location, too.

Of course, raising funds also helps support the cause. Consider donating to an advocacy group like BCAN, the American Bladder Cancer Society, or the American Cancer Society.

Facts and stats

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Bladder cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in the bladder, the hollow, sac-like organ that holds urine. Bladder cancer can be one of three types:

  • transitional cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • adenocarcinoma

Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common type. It grows in the inner tissue lining of the bladder.

Squamous cell carcinoma typically develops after a long-term irritation or infection in the bladder.

Adenocarcinoma begins in the mucus-secreting glandular cells in the bladder lining.

Several physical signs can alert you to the possibility of bladder cancer. Common symptoms include:

Because many of bladder cancer’s symptoms are easy to spot — such as blood in the urine or changes in bathroom habits — many people catch this cancer early. About half of all bladder cancers are found when cancer cells are only in the inner layer of the bladder wall.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the relative 5-year survival rates for bladder cancer are:

  • 96% for carcinoma in situ (abnormal cells in the lining inside of the bladder)
  • 77% for localized bladder cancer (cancer in the bladder only)
  • 39% for regional bladder cancer (when cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other organs)
  • 8% for metastatic bladder cancer (cancer has spread elsewhere in the body)

What are the risk factors for bladder cancer?

Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for developing bladder cancer. Other factors that increase risk include:

What is usually the first symptom of bladder cancer?

For many people, blood in the urine is the first sign of bladder cancer. If you notice a pink, orange, or red discoloration in your urine, talk with a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

What is the treatment for bladder cancer?

Treatment of bladder cancer depends on how advanced it is, your level of general health, and your preferences.

That said, doctors most often treat this cancer with surgical intervention to remove cancer cells or tumors. Chemotherapy, radiation, and immunological therapies may also be used.

In 2022 alone, over 80,000 Americans were expected to receive a bladder cancer diagnosis, yet funding for research on this disease lags behind other types of cancer.

Though it is the 10th most diagnosed cancer worldwide, the National Cancer Institute does not list bladder cancer in its top 19 areas of funded research.

Considering the large number of people who live with bladder cancer, bringing attention to its impact (and raising funds to study its potential prevention) is critical. In May, consider lending your voice to raise awareness.