Coping with metastatic bladder cancer

Metastatic bladder cancer means your cancer has spread from where it started to another part of your body. It is also called advanced cancer. You may have been diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer to start with. Or it might have come back or spread to other areas of the body after your original treatment.  

Unfortunately, metastatic cancer can’t be cured. But treatments can often help control the cancer and relieve symptoms. Your doctors and nurses will help you to make the most of life and feel as good as possible, for as long as possible.

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

    Talking about advanced cancer

    Your friends and relatives might be able to support you and talk to you about your cancer. Sharing can help to increase trust and support between you and make it easier to plan ahead. But some families are scared of the emotions this could bring up. So they may not want to discuss it. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

    It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. You can help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to discuss what’s happening and how you feel.

    You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

    Counselling might help you find ways of coping with your feelings and emotions. You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.


    Thinking about your priorities and planning what you want to do can help you to feel more in control. You might want to talk about how you want to spend your time and what is and isn’t important to you.

    Some of your future plans might no longer be realistic. But you might get round to doing something you always wanted to do but weren’t able to make time for.

    Physical problems

    Metastatic bladder cancer is likely to cause physical changes in your body. These might include:

    • changes to the way your bladder works
    • feeling very tired and lacking in energy a lot of the time
    • changes can affect your relationships 
    • pain

    Feeling as well as you can

    It is important that you feel as well as you possibly can. Tell your doctor or nurse about any symptoms you have so they can help to control them.

    Coping financially

    You might have extra expenses due to the cancer. Your specialist nurse or GP can help you get grants for heating costs, holidays or household expenses related to your illness.

    Ask to see a social worker. They can let you know which benefits or grants you can claim and help with the claiming process.  

    Who can help?

    You can get emotional and practical support through your hospital, local hospice and GP surgery. You can also get help from charities and support groups.

    Towards the end of life

    It’s natural to want to find out what is likely to happen in the last few weeks or days of life.

    You might need to choose where you want to be looked after and who you want to care for you.

    You can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses if you have questions or want to talk about coping with advanced cancer. Call free on 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
    • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer
      The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004

    • Bladder cancer: diagnosis and management
      The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), February 2015

    • GOV.UK website
      Accessed December 2022

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

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

    • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

    Last reviewed: 
    14 Dec 2022
    Next review due: 
    14 Dec 2025

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