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Bladder Cancer: Stages

What does stage of cancer mean?

The stage of a cancer is how much and how far the cancer has spread in your body. Your healthcare provider uses exams and tests to find out the size of the cancer and where it is. He or she can also see if the cancer has grown into nearby areas, and if it has spread to other parts of your body. The stage of a cancer is one of the most important things to know when deciding how to treat the cancer.

The place where cancer starts is called the primary site. Bladder cancer can spread from the primary site to other parts of your body. Cancer that has spread is called metastatic cancer. When a cancer spreads, it’s said to have metastasized.

The TNM system for bladder cancer

The TNM system is a standard system for describing the extent of a cancer's growth. Here's what the letters stand for in the TNM system:

  • T describes how deeply a tumor has invaded the bladder and nearby tissues.

  • N tells whether the lymph nodes near the tumor have cancer in them.

  • M tells whether the cancer has metastasized to other organs in the body. These can include your lungs or bones.

Numerical values are assigned to each of the T, N, and M categories to help further describe the stage of the cancer.

What are the stages of bladder cancer?

Each TNM category, with its assigned numerical value, falls into one of these stages. Based on the stage of your cancer, your healthcare provider will plan the best treatment for you.

Stage 0 means the following:

  • This stage means that cancer cells are found only on the surface of the inner lining of the bladder. Your healthcare provider may call this stage non-invasive papillary carcinoma, superficial cancer, or carcinoma in situ.

In Stage I, the following is true:

  • The cancer cells have grown deeper into the inner lining of the bladder.

  • These cells haven't spread into the bladder muscle, lymph nodes, or other parts of your body.

In Stage II, the following happens:

  • The cancer cells have spread to the muscle walls of the bladder.

  • The cancer has not spread outside or beyond the bladder.

Stage III means the following:

  • The cancer cells have spread through the muscular wall of the bladder to the layer of fatty tissue surrounding the bladder.

  • In men, cancer cells may have spread to the prostate gland. In women, the cancer may have spread to the uterus or vagina.

  • The cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

Stage IV means one of the following is true:

  • The cancer has spread to the wall of your abdomen or to the wall of your pelvis.

  • Or cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body far away from the bladder, such as the lungs or liver.

Talking with your healthcare provider

Once your cancer is staged, your healthcare provider will talk with you about what the stage means for your treatment. Make sure to ask any questions or talk about your concerns.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Levin, Mark, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2016
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.