Bladder cancer statistics and outlook
This page is about statistics and what they can tell us about the outlook for people with bladder cancer. There is information about
Bladder cancer statistics and outlook
Outlook means what is likely to happen in the future. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. With bladder cancer, the likely outcome depends on whether the cancer is just in the bladder lining or whether it has spread into the muscle wall of the bladder or beyond. The grade can also be important. The grade means how abnormal the cells look under the microscope.
We have quite detailed information below about the likely outcome of different stages of bladder cancer. The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check every section of this website. They are intended as a general guide only. For the more complete picture in your case, you’d have to speak to your own specialist.
We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wants to read this type of information. If you don't want to read about the outlook for bladder cancer you can go back to the treating bladder cancer page.
How reliable are cancer statistics?
No statistics can tell you exactly what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating bladder cancer section.
On this page there is quite detailed information about the survival rates for different stages of bladder cancer. We have included it because people ask us for this. But not everyone who is diagnosed with a cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment, you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.
Please note that there are no national UK statistics available for different stages of cancer or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check each section of this website. We provide statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and cannot be used to predict what will happen in your individual case.
There is a section explaining more about cancer statistics and also about incidence, mortality and survival. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, it might help to read this before you read the statistics below.
Remember that 5 year survival and 10 year survival are terms that doctors use. This doesn't mean you will only live 5 or 10 years. 10 year survival relates to the number of people in research who were still alive 10 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for 5 years or more after treatment in bladder cancer research studies. So they use the term 5 year survival.
As with many other types of cancer, the outcome of bladder cancer depends on whether the cancer is just in the bladder lining or whether it has spread into the muscle wall of the bladder or beyond. Whether the cancer is just in the bladder lining or has spread is called the stage of the cancer. We have divided the statistics below into sections about early, invasive and advanced bladder cancer.
The grade of the cancer can also be important. Generally speaking, doctors divide bladder cancers into 3 groups, depending on what the cells look like under the microscope. The groups are low grade, medium (or moderate) grade and high grade. High grade cancer cells look the most abnormal and are most likely to grow quickly and spread. There is information about bladder cancer grade in this section.
Of all the people diagnosed with bladder cancer in England and Wales, about 58 out of every 100 men (58%) live for at least 5 years after they are diagnosed. 50 out of every 100 women (50%) live for at least 5 years. The difference between survival in men and women is thought to be due to the slightly different structure of the bladder. These statistics are relative survival figures. This means that they don't include people who have died from other causes. Cancer statistics are often worked out this way because it gives a more accurate picture of the survival rate of the cancer. Many people with cancer are older and may not die from their cancer, but from other illnesses, such as heart disease.
Most bladder cancers are diagnosed while they are still only in the bladder lining. These are called T1 tumours. Between 80 to 90 out of every 100 people (80 to 90%) with this stage of bladder cancer live for more than 5 years.
The outlook for these cancers depends on several factors including
- Exactly how far the cancer cells have gone into the bladder lining
- The number of tumours
- The diameter of the tumours
- How abnormal the cancer cells look under the microscope (the grade)
- Whether CIS (high grade changes in the bladder lining) is present
Your doctor looks at all these factors. They use them to decide whether there is a low, medium (intermediate) or high risk of the cancer coming back or spreading into the muscle of the bladder.
With low risk early bladder tumours the risk of the cancer coming back in the bladder lining is lower than 7%. Fewer than 1% of these will spread into the bladder muscle and need more intensive treatment.
Medium (intermediate) risk early bladder tumours come back in about 45% of people after treatment. Around 2% of these will spread into the bladder muscle.
High risk early bladder cancer or carcinoma in situ comes back in more than half the people with these tumours. Up to 1 in 3 of these will spread into the deeper layers of the bladder.
Around 1 in 10 bladder cancers (10%) have grown into the muscle layer of the bladder when they are diagnosed. These are called invasive bladder cancers. There is a higher risk that the cancer could spread to other areas of the body than with early bladder cancer. We have a section with detailed information about treating invasive bladder cancer.
In T2 tumours, the cancer has spread into (or invaded) the muscle layer of the bladder. About 1 in 2 people (50%) diagnosed with T2 invasive bladder cancer are alive and well 3 years after their diagnosis.
In T3 tumours, the cancer has grown through the muscle layer and into the fat beneath. Unfortunately, treatment is less successful for tumours that have grown deeper into the bladder wall. About 1 in 4 people (25%) with a T3 tumour will be alive and well 3 years after diagnosis and treatment.
In the UK, specialists use either surgery to remove the bladder or radiotherapy to the bladder. The treatments generally work equally well. The choice often depends on what you prefer and what your specialist recommends.
Surgery or radiotherapy will cure some of these cancers. But in some people the cancer will come back and need more treatment. Doctors cannot usually tell which cancers are likely to come back and which are likely to be cured. One of the most important factors is how far the cancer has grown into the wall of the bladder. For instance, a stage T3 cancer is more likely to come back than a stage T2 cancer. If the cancer has spread into the nearby lymph glands, the risk of it coming back is higher.
To try to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back, you may have chemotherapy treatment into your vein, as well as surgery or radiotherapy.
Metastatic bladder cancer is bladder cancer that has spread to another part of the body. About 1 in 10 bladder cancers (10%) have already spread by the time they are diagnosed. The outlook is not as good as for earlier stages of bladder cancer.
If the bladder cancer has spread to the lymph nodes close to the bladder, and the nodes are removed during surgery, about 3 out of 10 people will live longer than 5 years. If the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in other parts of the body, between 10 and 15% of people will live longer than 5 years.
Unfortunately, your cancer is not likely to be curable if it has spread to another body organ, such as your lungs, liver or bones. But you can still have chemotherapy and other treatments to try to keep it under control for a while and to help control any symptoms you may have. Once a cancer has spread in this way, the average time that people live is between a year and 18 months. But it is important to remember that this is an average and many people will live longer than that.
No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. So statistics can only give a rough idea of what may happen to you. The available statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had and how that treatment may have affected their outlook. Some treatments may help people to live longer as well as relieving symptoms. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and prognosis.
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