How Long Will You Live if You Have Bladder Cancer?

Reviewed on 5/6/2021

The survival rate depends on the stage of cancer at diagnosis and other health issues.
The survival rate depends on the stage of cancer at diagnosis and other health issues.

The survival rate depends on the stage of cancer at diagnosis and other health issues.

Overall, 70 to 90 percent of people with localized bladder cancer will live for at least five years or more. The physician calculates this with the help of survival rates. Survival rates indicate the percentage of people who live with a certain type of cancer for a specific time. The physician often uses an overall five-year survival rate. Factors that may affect survival rate include

Table. Five-year survival rates of different stages of bladder cancer
Bladder cancer SEER stages Five-year relative survival rate (percent)
In situ alone (not broken through the cell basement layer) 96
Localized 69
Regional 37
Distant 6
All SEER stages combined 77

The surveillance, epidemiology, and end results (SEER) stages are taken from the SEER database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute. SEER database groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages.

  • Localized: There is no indication that cancer has spread outside the bladder.
  • Regional: Cancer has invaded the nearby structures or lymph nodes.
  • Distant: Cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, or bones.

Thus, bladder cancer, if detected in the early stage is treatable and has higher survival rates. However, if the cancer is detected in the advanced stages, treatment becomes difficult and the survival rate is low.

How is bladder cancer treated?

Treatment for bladder cancer depends on

  • The stage of cancer.
  • If cancer has spread beyond the lining of the bladder.
  • The extent of cancer spread.

Treatment options based on tumor grade

  • High-grade bladder cancer: High-grade cancers that are life-threatening and spread quickly need to be treated with chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
  • Low-grade cancers: Less aggressive cancers have a low chance of becoming high grade and do not require aggressive treatments, such as radiation or bladder removal.

Treatment options may vary depending on the tumor stage.

  • Superficial tumors: Superficial tumors are limited to the lining of the bladder. These tumors are usually low-grade and are treated with transurethral resection. The physician may either remove the tumor or burn them down. Next, the physician places medications inside the bladder to prevent the recurrence of cancer. High-grade superficial tumors that tend to return once or twice after treatment are severe and require surgery to remove the bladder.
  • Carcinoma in situ: It is restricted within the most superficial lining of the bladder. They can be difficult to remove entirely. Transurethral resection and medications may help a bit, but if it fails, doctors recommend bladder removal.
  • Tumors in the bladder muscle: In case of bladder cancer that has invaded the muscle wall but hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes, the physician recommends radical cystectomy. In this procedure, the physician removes the bladder, nearby lymph nodes and other nearby organs.
  • Nonsurgical approaches: An alternative to surgery is radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy. Only certain patients qualify for this therapy, and the major advantage is that the bladder can be preserved.
  • More extensive tumor: This type of tumor is first reduced in size with radiation and chemotherapy. Then, the physician may perform a radical cystectomy to remove cancer that has invaded beyond the bladder wall.
  • Metastatic bladder cancer: Platinum-based chemotherapy is the first line of treatment for this type of bladder cancer. Patients who fail to respond to chemotherapy or those who have recurrent diseases are treated with immunotherapy.

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References
American Cancer Society. Survival Rates for Bladder Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladder-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-rates.html

Harvard Health Publishing. Bladder Cancer. April 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/bladder-cancer-a-to-z

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