What is metastatic bladder cancer?

Metastatic bladder cancer means the cancer has spread from where it started in the bladder to another part of the body. It is sometimes called advanced bladder cancer.

Your cancer might be advanced when you are first diagnosed. Or it may come back some time after you finished treatment. This is called recurrent or relapsed cancer.

Where can bladder cancer spread to?

Not all bladder cancers will spread. But If it does it's most likely to spread to the structures close to the bladder, such as the ureters, urethra, prostate, vagina, or into the pelvis. This is called local spread.

Bladder cancer can also spread to another part of the body. This is secondary cancer or metastasis. The places it's most likely to spread to are your:

  • lymph nodes in the pelvis and tummy (abdomen)
  • lungs
  • liver
  • bones
Diagram showing advanced bladder cancer

How you might feel

Finding out that you can’t be cured is distressing and can be a shock. It’s common to feel uncertain and anxious. It's normal to not be able to think about anything else.

Lots of information and support is available to you, your family and friends. Some people find it helpful to find out more about their cancer and the treatments they might have. Many people find that knowing more about their situation can make it easier to cope.

    Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to understand:

    • what your diagnosis means
    • what is likely to happen
    • what treatment is available
    • how treatment can help you


    Treatment can slow down advanced bladder cancer for some time and help to reduce your symptoms.


    Many people want to know what the outlook is and how their cancer will develop. This is different for each person. Your cancer specialist has all the information about you and your cancer. They're the best person to discuss this with.

    You can also talk to your specialist nurse.

    For information and support, you can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on 0808 800 4040, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
    Last reviewed: 
    28 Jun 2019
    • Coping and Prognostic Awareness in Patients With Advanced Cancer
      R D Nipp and others
      Journal of Clinical Oncology,  2017. Volume 35, Number 22, Pages 2551 – 2558

    • End of life care for adults
      National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2011) Updated March 2017. 

    • Bladder cancer: diagnosis and management
      National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2015

    • EAU Guidelines on Muscle-invasive and Metastatic Bladder Cancer
      J A Witjes and others
      European Association of Urology, 2022

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