Bladder Cancer Overview

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Staging of bladder cancer

The stage of a bladder cancer is a standard summary of how far it has spread. The stage of a cancer is important when choosing the best treatment. The stage can also help predict the patient’s outlook (prognosis).

There are 2 types of stages for bladder cancer. The clinical stage is based the results of the physical exam, imaging tests, and biopsies. The clinical stage is used to help plan treatment. The pathological stage is based on the results of these tests plus the results of surgery to remove the bladder and nearby lymph nodes. Sometimes the cancer has spread further than the estimate of the clinical stage. Because the pathological stage is based on what was found at surgery, it more accurately predicts the patient’s outlook for survival.

The stages of bladder cancer are usually labeled using Roman numerals 0 through IV (0-4). As a rule, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage IV (4), means a more advanced cancer.

Be sure to ask your doctor to explain your stage in a way you understand. This will help you both decide on the best treatment for you.


Last Medical Review: 12/03/2012
Last Revised: 01/21/2013