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Differences in Men vs. Women

Is bladder cancer more common in men or in women?

In the United States, bladder cancer occurs much more often in men than it does in women.1,2 In fact, men are more than three times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than women are. Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men in the United States. Among women, it is not one of the top ten most common cancers.

The American Cancer Society predicts that in 2017, around 60,000 men and 18,500 women will be diagnosed with bladder cancer. In the United States, a woman’s chance of being diagnosed with bladder cancer is around 1 in 88, and a man’s chance is around 1 in 26.

According to the National Cancer Institute, bladder cancer is usually diagnosed in men and women more than 55 years old. It is most often diagnosed in people who are between 75 and 84 years old.

Does it have different causes in men and women?

Generally, researchers think that bladder cancer has similar causes in men and women.3 Bladder cancer develops when there is a change to the DNA in certain cells in the bladder, which causes them to grow uncontrollably and form tumors. Some people may be more likely to develop bladder cancer than others, due to a gene that is passed down through families.

The main controllable risk factor for cancer is smoking or any kind of tobacco use. Men and women who smoke are both at least twice as likely to get bladder cancer than people who don’t smoke. The best way to lower your chance of bladder cancer is to never use any type of tobacco product.

Does it have different symptoms in men and women?

Bladder cancer generally causes the same types of symptoms in men and women.3,4 These include blood in the urine, frequent or urgent need to urinate, and painful urination. Men and women who experience these symptoms should speak with their healthcare provider, because bladder cancer that is detected early is easier to treat successfully.

Even though bladder cancer is less common among women, women with bladder cancer tend to be diagnosed later than men are. Bladder cancer in women also tends to be somewhat more difficult to treat successfully than it is in men. Researchers are still working to understand the reasons for this. Some women may be diagnosed later because the symptoms of bladder cancer are diagnosed incorrectly as a urinary tract infection, bladder infection, menstruation, or menopausal bleeding.

Is it treated differently in men and women?

Generally, treatments are similar for men and women who are diagnosed with bladder cancer in the lining of the bladder that has not grown into the muscles in the bladder walls, which is called non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer.3 The initial treatment of non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer typically involves surgery followed by chemotherapy delivered directly into the bladder.

However, some men and women who are diagnosed with bladder cancer that has grown into the walls of the bladder (called muscle-invasive bladder cancer) may need to have surgery to remove the bladder and create a different way to store and pass urine. In this type of surgery, the surgeon may need to remove lymph nodes and/or some of the organs near the bladder as well. In women, those organs might include the uterus and the ovaries. In men, it might include the prostate.

Written by Anna Nicholson | Last review date: September 2017.
  1. Cancer of the Urinary Bladder. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, National Cancer Institue, Accessed September 2017.
  2. Cancer Facts & Figures 2017. American Cancer Society.
  3. Bladder Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute. Accessed September 2017.
  4. Women & Bladder Cancer. BCAN. Accessed September 2017.