Bladder Cancer Prognosis and Survival Rates
If you’ve been diagnosed with bladder cancer, you may have questions about how serious the cancer is and your chances of survival. The likely outcome or course of a disease is called prognosis.
The prognosis for bladder cancer depends on many factors:
- the stage of the cancer, including whether the cancer
- has not reached the muscle wall of the bladder (called non-muscle-invasive or superficial bladder cancer) or
- has spread through the inner lining of the bladder and into the muscle wall of the bladder or beyond it (called muscle-invasive bladder cancer or invasive bladder cancer)
- the type of bladder cancer
- whether the cancer is low grade or high grade
- the patient’s age and general health
For non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer, prognosis also depends on whether
- there are many tumors or large tumors
- the cancer has grown into the connective tissue next to the lining of the bladder
- the cancer has come back after treatment
Non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer can often be cured.
For muscle-invasive bladder cancer, prognosis also depends on whether carcinoma in situ is also present.
Survival rates for bladder cancer
Doctors estimate bladder cancer prognosis by using statistics collected over many years from people with bladder cancer. One statistic that is commonly used in making a prognosis is the 5-year relative survival rate. The 5-year relative survival rate tells you what percent of people with the same type and stage of bladder cancer are alive 5 years after their cancer was diagnosed, compared with people in the overall population. For example, the 5-year relative survival rate for localized bladder cancer is 71%. This means that people diagnosed with localized bladder cancer are 71% as likely as someone who does not have bladder cancer to be alive 5 years after diagnosis.
The 5-year relative survival rates for bladder cancer are as follows:
- 97% for carcinoma in situ of the bladder alone (abnormal cells found in the tissue lining the inside of the bladder)
- 71% for localized bladder cancer (cancer is in the bladder only)
- 39% for regional bladder cancer (cancer has spread beyond the bladder to nearby lymph nodes or organs)
- 8% for metastatic bladder cancer (cancer has spread beyond the bladder to a distant part of the body)
Understanding survival rate statistics
Because survival statistics are based on large groups of people, they cannot be used to predict exactly what will happen to you. The doctor who knows the most about your situation is in the best position to discuss these statistics and talk with you about your prognosis. It is important to note the following when reviewing survival statistics:
- No two people are entirely alike, and responses to treatment can vary greatly.
- Survival statistics use information collected from large groups of people who may have received different types of treatment.
- It takes several years to see the effect of newer and better treatments, so these effects may not be reflected in current survival statistics.
To learn more about survival statistics and to see videos of patients and their doctors exploring their feelings about prognosis, see Understanding Cancer Prognosis.