Bladder Cancer

The bladder is a hollow, balloon-shaped organ in the lower part of the abdomen; its job is to expand and store urine until it is full, then shrink and squeeze urine out of the body. Urine itself is produced by the kidneys, two bean-shaped organs—one on each side of the backbone—above the waist. The kidneys and bladder work together to get toxins and wastes out of your body through urine.

Bladder cancer starts when the cells of the bladder start to grow out of control. As more cancer cells develop, they can form a tumor and, with time, spread to other parts of the body.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 82,290 new cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in 2023. The chance that men will develop this cancer during their lifetime is about 1 in 28, while the risk for women is about 1 in 91. With appropriate treatment, in situ bladder cancer has a five-year survival rate of 96 percent.

Our physicians are well versed in the treatment of bladder cancer, and our support staff will make your treatment journey as easy as possible. We have offices in Louisville and just across the river in Jeffersonville for your convenience. Learn more about our physicians.

Types of bladder cancer

Urothelilal carcinoma, also known as transitional cell carcinoma, is by far the most common type of bladder cancer. It starts in the urothelial cells, which line the bladder, ureters, renal pelvis, and some other organs. These cells are the ones that stretch when the bladder is full of urine and shrink when it is emptied.

Other types of bladder cancer, all of which are very rare, include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer that begins in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the bladder.
  • Adenocarcinoma begins in the glandular cells that line the bladder. These cells make mucus and other substances.
  • Small cell carcinoma of the bladder begins in neuroendocrine cells, nerve-like cells that release hormones into the blood when the nervous system signals them to do so.

Risk factors for bladder cancer

Some behaviors and situations can increase your risk of developing bladder cancer.

The risk factors you can change include smoking, workplace exposure to toxic industrial chemicals, taking certain medicines or supplements, and not drinking enough fluids.


Workplace exposure to toxic chemicals

Taking certain medications or supplements

Not drinking enough fluids

Risk factors you can’t change include race or ethnicity (white people are approximately twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as other races), age (about 9 of 10 bladder cancer patients are over 55), sex (bladder cancer is much more common in men than in women), chronic bladder irritation and infection, and family history.

Race or ethnicity



Chronic bladder irritation/infection

Family history

Radiotherapy for bladder cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Radiation therapy for bladder cancer is sometimes done with external beam therapy, which uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the area of the body where the cancer is located.

Before your treatment begins, we will take careful measurements to find just the right angles for aiming radiation beams and the proper dose of radiation. This process of planning radiation therapy for bladder cancer is called CT simulation, and it involves having 3-D images (CT scans) taken to help the doctor see exactly where the tumor is located and design a precise treatment plan.

Radiation therapy may be given in combination with other types of treatment such as chemotherapy. This is referred to as chemoradiation.

Information on this page is sourced from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.

Bladder Cancer Resources

Are you being treated for bladder cancer? Here are some resources to help you better understand your treatment; how to prepare for treatment; and what to expect before, during, and after treatment occurs.

Cancers We Treat

Our physicians treat a wide variety of cancers. You can view the full list here, or you can click below to learn about the cancers we most commonly treat.


Radiation is often the treatment of choice for prostate cancer. It is used as the first line treatment for cancer that is low-grade and still confined to the prostate. It’s used as part of the first treatment for cancers that have grown outside the prostate gland and into nearby tissues. It is also used in cases of recurrent prostate cancer, and to help prevent or relieve symptoms in advanced cases. We offer intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), image guided radiation therapy (IGRT), stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for recurrence in selected patients, and radiopharmaceutical treatments including radium 223 and Pluvicto (lutetium 177).

Learn more about prostate cancer


Some people with breast cancer will need radiation in addition to other treatments.  Radiation therapy can be used after breast-conserving surgery to help lower the chance the cancer will come back in the same breast or nearby lymph nodes. It can also be used after a mastectomy, especially if the cancer was larger than about 2 inches, if cancer is found in many lymph nodes, or if certain surgical margins have cancer cells. It is also used when breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the bones, spinal cord, or brain.

Learn more about breast cancer


In select cases, stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for lung cancer can provide great benefits to patients with both small cell and non-small cell tumors that have not spread throughout the lung. It’s also useful when lung cancers have metastasized (spread) to other areas of the body like the chest cavity, brain, or other organs. It is used in non-small cell lung cancer before surgery to shrink the tumor, if the patient isn’t healthy enough for surgery, if the tumor has spread too far to be treated with surgery, and after surgery to kill any tumor cells that might still be in the body. For patients with small cell lung cancer, it’s used to treat the tumor and lymph nodes in the chest, for people who can’t tolerate chemoradiation, or it may be given prophylactically (as prevention) to help minimize the risk of the cancer spreading to the brain.

Learn more about lung cancer


According to the American Cancer Society, radiation therapy for bladder cancer is used after surgery that does not remove the whole bladder (such as TURBT). It’s also used as the main treatment for people with early-stage cancers who can’t have surgery or chemotherapy to try to avoid cystectomy (surgery to remove the bladder), as part of treatment for advanced bladder cancer, and to help prevent or treat symptoms caused by advanced bladder cancer.

Learn more about bladder cancer


Cancer can affect a lot of areas of the head and neck including the nose, mouth, tongue, salivary glands, throat, and larynx (voice box). It’s critical that these patients use a radiation oncology provider who is experienced in head and neck cancer medical procedures. Radiation is used in several ways to treat head and neck cancers. First, it may be used alone, for small cancers or people who can’t have surgery. It can be used before or after surgery, along with chemotherapy (chemoradiation), to kill any remaining cancer cells or shrink the size of large tumors, as well as for treating recurrences and ease symptoms.

Learn more about head and neck cancers


There are several types of skin cancer, the most common of which are basal and squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Radiation treatment for skin cancer can be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells, to treat recurring or metastasized melanoma, or to provide palliative care. In the treatment of skin cancers, radiation can be combined with other treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery.

Learn more about skin cancer


Other types of cancer we treat include:

  • Brain Cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Colon & Rectal Cancers
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Gynecologic Cancers
  • Sarcoma
  • Hypopharyngeal Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Laryngeal Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Liver Cancer

Schedule Your Appointment Today

If you are referred for radiation therapy during your cancer care, you get to choose where to receive treatment. We are here to support and encourage you—call us today to schedule your first appointment with one of our radiation oncologists at the cancer center nearest to you.