Stage 4 Bladder Cancer: Prognosis and Life Expectancy

Medically reviewed by Monica Bien PA-C on April 4, 2016Written by Faith Black on April 4, 2016

Being diagnosed with bladder cancer can be overwhelming and scary, especially if it’s stage 4.

Stage 4 bladder cancer is the most advanced stage and carries the worst prognosis. Many cancer treatments will be both difficult and challenging. However, treatment can reduce or even eliminate your symptoms and help you live a longer, more comfortable life. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of treating stage 4 bladder cancer because treatments come with side effects and risks.

What can I expect if I have stage 4 bladder cancer?

Symptoms of bladder cancer can include:

  • blood or blood clots in your urine
  • pain or burning during urination
  • frequent urination
  • needing to urinate at night
  • needing to urinate but not being able to
  • lower back pain on one side of the body

These symptoms commonly lead to a diagnosis, but they aren’t unique to stage 4 bladder cancer.

Stage 4 bladder cancer is also called metastatic bladder cancer. This means the cancer has spread outside of the bladder into other parts of the body. People with metastatic cancer may experience symptoms relating to where their cancer has spread. For example, if the bladder cancer has spread to the lungs, you may experience chest pain or increased coughing.

What is the survival rate?

Metastatic bladder cancer is difficult to cure because it has already traveled to other parts of the body. The later you’re diagnosed and the farther the cancer has traveled, the less chance that your cancer will be cured. The 5-year survival rate is estimated at 15 percent. This means that with treatment you have a 15 percent chance of surviving for 5 years after a diagnosis of stage 4 bladder cancer.

If the bladder cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 34 percent. If it has spread to a more distant site, the 5-year survival rate is 5.4 percent.

There are still treatment options for this stage. Keep in mind that new treatments are always in development. The prognosis and treatment options rely heavily on the details of each person’s disease. Knowing the grade and other details of your cancer can help give you a better prediction of prognosis, treatment options, and life expectancy.

Of course, these survival rates and numbers are only estimates. They can’t predict what will happen to every person. Some people will live longer or shorter than these estimated rates. Reading them can be confusing and may lead to more questions. Be sure to talk openly with your doctors to better understand your situation.

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