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Bladder cancer staging is the process of gathering information that is used to determine whether a cancer has spread within the bladder or beyond its lining and muscle to other parts of the body. The stage of a cancer is an important consideration when planning treatment.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we determine bladder cancer staging by using the tumor, node, metastasis (TNM) staging system. The TNM staging system assigns a number to each of three categories (primary tumor, regional lymph nodes and distant metastasis) to indicate the size or extent of the cancer. The resulting TNM combinations correspond to one of five cancer stages designated by the numbers 0 through IV, with higher numbers relating to more advanced cancers. This determination typically involves an examination of the patient, as well as biopsy results and computed tomography (CT) scans, which are used to assess the size and spread of any palpable masses, the degree of hardening of the bladder wall and any spread to adjacent tissue or distant organs.

What are the stages of bladder cancer?

The following categories are used for bladder cancer staging:

  • Stage 0 – Abnormal cells that could potentially develop into cancer are identified in the tissue lining the bladder (also called carcinoma in situ)
  • Stage 1 – Cancer has formed and spread to the layer of connective tissue that lines the bladder
  • Stage 2 – Cancer has spread to the layers of muscle tissue in the bladder
  • Stage 3 – Cancer has spread outside the bladder to the surrounding fat and/or the uterus, the prostate or seminal vesicles in a man or the vagina in a woman
  • Stage 4 – Cancer has spread to the pelvis, abdominal wall, lymph nodes or other parts of the body, such as the bones, lungs or liver

Of course, bladder cancer staging does not tell the whole story, and at Moffitt, we’re highly cognizant of that fact. Before recommending a course of treatment, our multispecialty group of experts thoroughly evaluates and discusses a patient’s circumstances. This systemic approach to patient care also carries over to our research initiatives, through which our scientific researchers work hand in hand with our clinicians to collectively advance the knowledge base relating to bladder and other genitourinary cancers, as well as develop novel treatments for these diseases at all stages.

Contact Moffitt to learn more about bladder cancer staging and treatment from the expert team in our Genitourinary Oncology Program. No referral is necessary; call 1-888-663-3488, or complete a new patient registration form online.