Bladder cancer is the 6th most common cancer among men globally, and the 10th most common overall. Bladder Cancer Awareness Month is a time for those affected by the disease to stand together in an effort to increase awareness of the disease and fundraise for bladder cancer research, treatment and care. It’s also a time for patients to share their stories, educating and inspiring others affected by the disease. 

For those that have lost loved ones to bladder cancer, May is a time to remember and to honour the memory of those that have passed.

How to Get Involved in Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

Globally, the World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition (WBCPC) play an important role guiding activity throughout the month. The theme for 2021 - Have you ever heard about bladder cancer? - is all about initiating conversation. The idea is that asking this one question and actively engaging others on the topic of bladder cancer will help millions become #BladderCancerAware.

BCAM 2021 Theme - How you ever heard about bladder cancer?

Here are some ways you can get involved in Bladder Cancer Awareness Month throughout May.

  • Download, personalise, and share the WBCPC social media toolkit
    • The toolkit contains a range of useful assets for use across social media including templates, messaging, graphics and infographics. You can download it here.
  • Take part in a virtual event
    • The US-based Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) is running an Ask the Experts webinar on the 26th May to provide bladder cancer patients and caregivers with an opportunity to directly engage with leading doctors in the field. 
  • Educate yourself and others
    • Explore and share a blog article or other resource (see our list of handy links below).
    • Watch an expert video. You can check out the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network's library here. Their YouTube channel is another great resource. 
    • Browse Beat Bladder Cancer Australia's library of patient content.
  • Share your story
  • Help raise awareness
    • In keeping with the theme of the month, ask the question: Have you ever heard about bladder cancer? Engage others in conversation.
    • Encourage awareness of symptoms across your network.
    • Follow key organisations like the World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition, BCAN, Bladder Cancer Australia and Beat Bladder Cancer Australia on social media (see our list below) and join the conversation, sharing useful content using key hashtags like #BladderCancerAwarenessMonth and #BladderCancerAware.
  • Donate
    • Donate to bladder cancer research and care. 

Increasing Awareness of the Disease

Education is an essential element of Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, both in relation to self-learning and in spreading awareness of the disease amongst friends and family members.

How Does Bladder Cancer Develop?

Bladder cancer develops when cells in the bladder begin to grow abnormally. It often starts in the lining of the bladder then grows deeper, penetrating the surrounding tissue and muscle. In advanced cases, the cancer may spread (or metastasise) to other parts of the body.

There are several different types of bladder cancer, the most common of which is Urothelial Carcinoma (UC). UC accounts for over 90% of all bladder cancers and begins in the bladder lining as either a papillary cancer growing out into the centre of the bladder, or a flat tumour known as a carcinoma in situ (or CIS). CIS tumours are a particular concern as they’re more likely to spread, penetrating the muscle surrounding the bladder and other parts of the body.

Non-Invasive vs Invasive Bladder Cancer

The bladder wall has several layers from inside to out (see the diagram below):

  • Urothelium: the inner lining of the bladder
  • Lamina propria: a thin layer of connective tissue beneath the urothelium
  • Muscularis propria: a layer of muscle surrounding the bladder
  • Fatty connective tissue

Most bladder cancers start in the urothelium. If the disease affects only the urothelium, it is called superficial. Bladder cancers that spread into deeper layers are more difficult to treat. If bladder cancer penetrates to the layer of surrounding muscle it is called muscle invasive.

bladder cancer stages

Bladder Cancer Stages and Grades

Bladder cancer stages and grades are used to help classify the severity of the disease.

Stage: describes the size and position of a tumour, including whether it has spread from where it first started.

The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system is the most widely used staging system for bladder cancer. It relies on three critical factors:

  • T: The letter "T" stands for "tumour" and describes the degree to which the tumour has grown through the wall of your bladder and into neighbouring tissue and muscles.
  • N: The letter "N" stands for "nodes" and notes if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are groups of immune system cells about the size of beans. When cancer starts to spread, it frequently spreads to the lymph nodes nearest the bladder first.
  • M: The letter "M" stands for "metastasised," which means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs or other lymph nodes farther from the bladder.

The American Cancer Society provides a detailed breakdown of the TNM system here. Letters or numbers after T, N and M offer more detail related to the progression of the cancer.

Grade: tumours can be classified further based on the way cancer cells look when viewed through a microscope, i.e. the degree to which they deviate in their appearance from normal cells. Cells within low grade tumours look similar to healthy tissue but with different cell groupings, while those in high grade tumours are visibly different in appearance and are more likely to recur, grow and spread. 

Bladder Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Early detection is an important theme that runs throughout Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. The disease is treatable, especially when detected in its early stages, so it's important recognise and act on the symptoms.

Blood in your urine or haematuria is the most common symptom of bladder cancer and should be taken seriously. About 4 in every 5 people with bladder cancer will experience haematuria as the first sign. If you do see blood, it’s recommended you speak with your Doctor as soon as possible. Just bear in mind certain foods like beetroot, blueberries and rhubarb can cause your urine to appear red, as can certain medications. Blood can also be caused by other factors including monthly periods in women, sexual activity, kidney trauma, bladder or kidney stones, UTIs, vigorous exercise and viral illness.

Other bladder cancer symptoms to watch for include:

  • An increase in frequency or difficulty in urinating
  • An increase in the feeling of urgency to urinate
  • Pain when urinating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss

If you notice one or more of these symptoms and are concerned about bladder cancer, it’s best to consult your Doctor as soon as possible.

Bladder Cancer Detection

When detected at an early stage, bladder cancer can often be treated successfully.

The diagnostic tests and procedures to detect bladder cancer are selected by doctors based on an individual’s age, symptoms, risk factors, and any history of bladder cancer. They may include:

Diagnostic testDetails
Urine  tests
  • Urine that is collected in a cup can be tested for the presence of blood, cancer cells, bacteria, and other substances such as glucose and protein.
Genomic urine tests, such as Cxbladder
  • Non-invasive urine tests like Cxbladder that measure biomarker genes to accurately detect the presence or absence of bladder cancer.
  • Can be used to visualise the bladder and to collect a small sample of tissue for laboratory testing.
  • Involves inserting a cystoscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with a camera, into the bladder via the urethra.
Diagnostic Imaging
  • Techniques such as x-ray, ultrasound, and computed tomography (CT) scans may be used to visualise the bladder, the wider urinary system and abdominal cavity, and other areas within the body.

If You're Concerned About Bladder Cancer, Ask Your Doctor About Cxbladder

Cxbladder is a non-invasive genomic urine test that quickly and accurately detects or rules out bladder cancer. The test combines clinical risk factor markers with genetic information, measuring five biomarker genes to detect the presence or absence of bladder cancer.

When should you use Cxbladder?

  • When you’ve seen blood in your urine
  • If tests reveal you have blood in your urine
  • When you’re being monitored for recurrent bladder cancer


Cxbladder provides peace of mind and can make a meaningful difference to your care.

  • The test gives you certainty, resolving diagnostic ambiguity and improving overall detection accuracy.
  • Most patients experiencing haematuria or who are being monitored for bladder cancer recurrence do not have cancer. Cxbladder enables the accurate rule out of patients who do not have bladder cancer, reducing the need for further invasive tests.

With performance proven in more than 20 peer-reviewed studies, Cxbladder is trusted by over 2,000 urologists in over 80,000 patients. In New Zealand, Cxbladder is available to 70% of the population via public healthcare and to all other residents through our online shop.
Learn more about Cxbladder     Contact us for more information    

Online Resources

Cxbladder website resources:

Bladder cancer information across leading online portals:

 Useful bladder cancer statistics:

Key patient organisations:


Last Updated: 02 May 2024 10:50 am