Glossary of Bladder Cancer Terms

Medical language used by doctors and other healthcare providers can be confusing and difficult to understand- and even more so when it comes to bladder cancer! We created a handy resource for you to refer to in case you need it. From "adjuvant" to "x-ray," we have you covered!


Abdomen: Sometimes referred to as the belly, contains internal structures and organs including the pancreas, stomach, intestines, liver, and gallbladder.
Abnormal: An unusual result, one that is not normal and may be of concern.
Acute: Sudden onset, severe, or short-term condition.
Adenocarcinoma: A glandular tumor that grows in cells lining internal organs.
Adjuvant: An element of cancer treatment, given after the original treatment, to improve the chances that the disease has been eliminated. Adjuvant therapy includes chemotherapy, radiation, hormone, targeted, or biological therapy.
Anesthesia: Anesthetics administered to patients that cause loss of feeling in a part of the body or put you to sleep.
Anterior pelvic exenteration:Surgery to remove the urethra, lower part of the ureters, uterus, cervix, vagina, and bladder in women.
Arsenic: A metallic chemical compound that is poisonous and used in cancer treatments.
Attenuated: A weakened or diluted pathogen, organism or vaccine.


Bacteria: Single-cell microorganisms that can cause infections and disease in animals and humans.
BCG: Bacillus Calmette-Guerin is germ that is used as a vaccine for tuberculosis. In another form it is used as an immunotherapy treatment for early stage bladder cancer.
BCG solution: A form of biological therapy for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. The solution is administered through a catheter placed into the bladder. It contains live, weakened bacteria that are meant to activate the immune system with an inflammatory response.
Benign: A non-malignant, non-cancerous tumor that does not invade surrounding tissue.
Biological therapy: Treatment to interfere with tumor growth and stimulate or restore the immune system to fight infection and disease. Other names include immunotherapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.
Biopsy: The removal of a tissue sample for examination under a microscope.
Bladder: A hollow, expandable organ in the pelvic region with flexible, muscular walls. It stores urine before it is excreted.
Bladder cancer: Cancer that generally forms in tissues lining the bladder. There are several different kinds including transitional cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma (in thin, flat cells) and adenocarcinoma (in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).
Blue Light Cystoscopy: A technology to detect and diagnose tumors in the bladder. It uses contrast solution that is absorbed by cancer cells and makes them fluoresce turning bright pink or red under a special blue light.
Bone scan: Radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream to create images of bones that is detected by a scanner.


Cancer: A term for diseases in which the abnormal growth of cells divide in an uncontrolled way with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.
Carcinogen: A substance capable of causing cancer.
Carcinoma: Cancer that forms in the skin or lining of internal organs.
Catheter: A narrow, flexible tube that can be used to drain and collect urine from the bladder.
Cells: The smallest functional unit, microscopic building blocks of any living organism.
Cervix: The narrow lower portion of the uterus.
Chemotherapy: The chemical treatment of disease with anticancer drugs.
Clinical trial: A controlled research study that tests the effectiveness and safety of new treatments, drugs or medical devices on specific conditions for humans.
Continent catheterizable reconstruction: A type of internal reservoir to hold urine that is created to replace the removed diseased bladder. It is not attached to the urethra and therefore needs to be emptied by catheterization.
Continent urinary diversion: An internal reservoir created from a section of the bowel. Urine passes through the ureters into the reservoir and is drained by the patient. It does not require an external pouch.
CT scan: Computed tomography or computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan. A diagnostic medical test that takes a series of detailed cross-sectional images inside the body. A computer linked to an x-ray machine creates the pictures.
Cystectomy: Surgery to remove all or part of the bladder.
Cystoscope: A thin, lighted instrument used to examine inside the bladder.
Cystoscopy: Examination of the bladder using a cystoscope inserted through the urethra. Tissue samples can be removed and examined under a microscope to determine whether disease is present.
Cytology: The scientific study of the structure and function of cells. The results can be used in the diagnosis of cancer.


Diagnosis: The identification of an illness by the examination of symptoms.


Erectile dysfunction: The inability to achieve or sustain an erection.
Excision: Surgical removal of tissue using a scalpel or other sharp instrument.


FDA: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a government agency which serves to protect the public by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
Fulguration: The use of lasers or cauterization to destroy cancerous bladder lesions.


Genes: Biological units of heredity passed from parents to offspring. Each gene contains specific information, a set of instructions for making a specific protein or function. Genes make you who you are and what you look like.


Hematuria: A condition when blood is present in the urine. It can take 2 forms:

  • Gross - where blood can be seen with the naked eye
  • Microscopic – where blood can be detected only when examined under a microscope


Ileum: The third section of the small intestine, it sits below the duodenum and the jejunem. It connects to the large intestine at the cecum and is involved in digestion and absorption of food
Immune system: The body’s defense system to fight off infection causing organisms. Cells, tissues and organs work collectively to protect from parasites, bacteria and other organisms.
Ileal conduit: Urinary tract surgical reconstruction that uses a small piece of the ileum. The ureters are implanted into the conduit closed off at one end and open to the skin at the other. The opening is called a stoma.
Imaging: The production of images scanned by detector of electromagnetic beam resulting in pictures of areas inside the body.
Immunotherapy: Treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to help fight cancer.
Immunogenicity: The ability of a substance to provoke an immune response
Incision: A cut made into the body through skin or tissue during surgery using a scalpel or other sharp instrument.
Incontinence: The inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder. This condition is generally due to weak muscle sphincters, which are located at the base of the bladder and urethra. It can also be caused by surgical removal of or damage to the urinary sphincters.
Indolent: Used to describe a tumor that is slow-growing, potentially allowing more time for treatment decision-making or watchful waiting.
Infection: The invasion of microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses, in the body that cause a host response.
Inflammation: A localized reaction that can cause symptoms such as swelling, soreness, redness and warmth often as a reaction to illness or injury.
In situ: Cancer that involves only the cells in which it began and that has not spread to neighboring tissues.
Internal radiation: Radioactive material placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called brachytherapy, implant radiation, or interstitial radiation therapy
Intravenous: IV. Into a vein. Medical solutions administered directly into the circulatory system
Intravesical: Within the bladder.
Invasive cancer: A cancer that has a tendency to spread beyond where it developed into healthy tissues.


Kidneys: A pair of bean shaped organs below the ribs on the right and left sides of the body. They filter the blood to remove waste, including urine.


Lamina propria: A thin, flat layer of cells and blood vessels, called a basement layer, that is beneath a mucous membrane.
Laser: A medical devices that uses a narrow beam of precisely focused light to cut, treat, destroy or remove tissues.
Local therapy: Treatment that is directed to a specific organ or limited area of he body.
Lymph node: Small oval structures, part of the body’s immune system, which filter harmful substances that travel through the lymphatic fluid. They contain lymphocytes (white blood cells) that help the body fight infection and disease.
Lymphatic system: The body’s filtration system that carries nutrients and eliminates waste as a way to fight infection and other diseases. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, and network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells into all the tissues of the body.


Magnetic resonance imaging: MRI A type of scan in which a strong magnetic field and radio waves are used to create detailed pictures of organs and tissues within the body.
Malignant: A cancerous growth with a tendency to spread and invade nearby tissue and can spread to other parts of the body.
Mass: A new growth of cells, which may be solid of fluid, filled, in oncology - a tumor.
Metastasis: The change in growth of cancer cells allowing it to spread.
Metastasize: The spread of cancer cells from the primary site to a new part of the body.
Micturition: The process of urination.
Monotherapy: The use of a single drug to treat a disease or condition.


Nausea: Feeling sick to your stomach with the urge to vomit.
Needle biopsy: A sample of tissue or fluid removed with a needle also known as fine-needle aspiration.
Neoadjuvant therapy: First line treatment to shrink a tumor before the main treatment, which is usually surgery. Examples include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.
Neobladder: The surgical creation of a new bladder constructed from the a piece of the small intestine and attached to the urethra.


Oncogene: A gene mutation that may cause the growth of cancer cells.
Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Orthotopic bladder: Also known as a neobladder; it is a newly formed pouch that can divert urine without a stoma.
Ostomy: An operation to create an opening, a stoma, from an area inside the body to the outside through which waste passes.
Outpatient: Medical treatment given outside the hospital.
Ovaries: The part of the female reproductive system that produces eggs for reproduction and the hormones estrogen and progesterone.


Pain: A sensation or feeling triggered by the nervous system. It can feel like a prick, tingle, sting, burn, or ache.
Pathologist: A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
Pelvis: The lower part of the human trunk, located at the base of the spine between the hipbones.
Pharmacokinetics: The way a drug runs through the body. It affects the way the drugs begins to work, how long it is effective and its intensity.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT): a medical treatment that uses a drug with a photosensitizing agent and a particular wavelength of light to produce a form of oxygen that can destroy adjacent cells.
Precancerous: A group of cells that can potentially turn cancerous if left in place or untreated.
Primary tumor: The original site of a tumor growth that becomes a cancerous mass.
Prognosis: The likely predicted outcome or course of a disease.
Prostate: The gland below a man’s bladder, part of the male reproductive system, which produces fluid for semen.
Pyelogram: IVP. A diagnostic x-ray study of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder, which uses an injected contrast dye to produce an image that aids in evaluation of symptoms.
P53: A tumor-suppressor gene, also known as TP53, codes for a protein that regulates cells as a tumor suppressor. A mutation of the P53 gene has been shown to occur in nearly 40 percent of invasive bladder carcinomas. Some research suggests that the P53 mutation could be a tumor marker indicating the likelihood of developing or presence of a dangerous type of tumor.


Radiation oncologist: A medical specialist who uses technology and an array of radiation therapies to treat cancer.
Radiation therapy: The use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Sources can include x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, and other. Radiation therapies can be administered externally from machines, by radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, or brachytherapy) or systemic radiation (radiotherapy) that uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that circulates throughout the body.
Radiation: High-energy rays targeted to destroy cancer, also called external-beam radiation.
Radical cystectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the bladder and surrounding tissues, sometimes including nearby organs where bladder cancer might spread.
Radioactive: High-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, used to kill or damage cancer cells.
Rectum: A hollow muscular tube about 8 inches long, it is the final segment of the large intestine that connects the colon to the anus.
Recurrence: Cancer that has returned after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected.
Referral: To direct a patient or a medical case to a specialist.
Refractory: In medicine, describes a disease or condition that does not respond to treatment.
Renal pelvis: Ureters connect the kidneys to the bladder. The top of each ureter is in the middle of the kidney in an area known as the renal pelvis. Urine collects in the renal pelvis and is drained by the ureter into the bladder.
Resection: Surgical removal of all or part of an organ, tissue, or structure.
Resectoscope: An electro-surgical instrument that combines a wide-angle telescope and an electrically heated wire loop that can be used for transurethral removal or biopsy of lesions of the bladder, prostate, or urethra.
Risk factor: An attribute, trait, genetic characteristic or exposure that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease, injury or other condition.


Schistosomiasis: an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms.
Screening: Tests to rule out or detect cancer at an early stage.
Segmental cystectomy: Also called a partial cystectomy, it involves the removal of a bladder tumor as well as some of the surrounding tissue around the tumor.
Self-catheterization: The use of a urinary catheter, a thin, flexible hollow tube, to drain urine from the bladder or replacement pouch if the bladder has been removed.
Side effects: Problems that occur when treatment affects healthy cells. Common side effects of cancer treatment are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss, and mouth sores.
Small intestine: The part of the digestive tract that is located between the stomach and the large intestine.
Sonogram: Images from inside the body generated by sound waves (ultrasound) of organs and other tissues.
Sphincter: A circular muscle that contracts to stop the flow of urine.
Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in thin, flat, squamous cells. Found in the tissue lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Bladder cancer associated with Schistosomiasis is often squamous cell carcinoma.
Stage: Most cancers have 4 stages. They are distinguished based on the size, location and affects on the body. Doctors may use different kinds of tests to help determine the stage of the cancer at any particular time during the disease.
Staging: Evaluation of the extent of a cancer within the body, including the size of the tumor and whether the disease has spread.
Stoma: A surgically created opening from an area inside the body to the outside. With an ileal conduit urine can drain into a small pouch that fits over the stoma and attaches to the skin with adhesive. This pouch can be emptied and cleaned.
Superficial: Situated or occurring on the skin or immediately beneath it.
Superficial bladder cancer: The most common form of bladder cancer affecting approximately 75% of all new cases. Tumors generally form in and around the surface and lining of the bladder.
Surgeon: A medical specialist who is qualified to remove or repair parts of the body by operating on a person.
Surgery: A medical specialty where doctors perform operations and other procedures to remove or repair a part of the body or to find out whether disease is present.
Symptom: A physical or mental indication that a person has a condition or disease. Often patient reported.
Systemic therapy: Treatment that uses drugs and other substances to travel through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells throughout the body.


Therapy: Treatment, generally after diagnosis, to correct or lessen a medical problem.
Tissue: A group of cells of similar structure that work together to perform a specific function.
Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC): The most common form of bladder cancer, also known as urothelial cell carcinoma (UCC). It develops in the lining of the bladder, ureter, or renal pelvis.
Transitional cells: A type of cell that lines the renal pelvis and ureters. They are expandable and flexible to allow for a change in volume. Bladder cancer most often forms in transitional cells.
Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT): A surgical procedure performed with a resectoscope to take tissue samples for diagnosis or removal a tumor. This technique accesses the bladder through the urethra.
Trigone: The smooth triangular area inside of the bladder where the ureters and urethra connect to the interior of the bladder. It is sensitive to expansion and signals the brain that the bladder needs to be emptied.
Tumor: An abnormal growth of tissue due to overactive cell division. Tumors perform no useful function. They may be benign or malignant.
Tumor grade: The grade of a tumor is determined by the abnormality of the cancer cells. The grading is done by examination under a microscope, anticipating rate of growth and spread. Tumor grading systems vary by cancer type.
Tumor suppressor gene: Normal genes that slow cell division. When they fail to work properly, they can grow too fast and lead to development of cancer.


Ultrasound: Also known as sonography, is a non-invasive way to take pictures inside of the body using sound waves. It involves using of a small transducer (probe) and ultrasound gel placed directly on the skin.
Ureter: Tubes made out of muscle that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
Urethra: The duct through which urine passes from the bladder to leave the body during urination. It is held closed by a sphincter that helps keep urine in the bladder.
Urine: Fluid made by the kidneys containing water and waste products. It is stored in the bladder and excreted through the urethra.
Urinary diversion: Multiple methods of redirecting urine produced by the kidneys when the bladder is not fully functional or has been removed. It may be used when other parts of the urinary tract are diseased or defective including the ureters or urethra. Urinary diversions can be temporary or permanent. Some diversions require a stoma.
Urinary tract: The body’s drainage system for removing urine. Each part of the urinary tract must work together in the correct order.
Urine: Fluid made by the kidneys containing water and waste products. It is stored in the bladder and excreted through the urethra.
Urologist: A doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract system in men and women and in male reproductive organs.
Urostomy: An operation to create a stoma to divert urine when the bladder and urethra have been damaged or removed.
Urothelial Cell Carcinoma (UCC): also called TCC, transitional cell carcinoma, is the most common form of bladder cancer. It forms first in the urothelial cells in the lining the bladder.
Uterus: Also known as the womb, it is a hollow organ in a woman’s pelvis. Its main function is to nourish a developing fetus. If bladder cancer spreads it can affect the uterus among other organs.


Vagina: The muscular canal of the female genital tract runs from the cervix to the outside of the body.
Vaginal: Relating to of affecting the vagina.
Valrubicin: A chemotherapy drug, also known as an antitumor antibiotic, used to treat bladder cancer. It is administered directly into the bladder through a urinary catheter.
Vesicle: A small fluid-filled sac, cyst, or vacuole within the body, including the bladder.
Void: Elimination of urine from the body through the process of urination.


X-ray: High-energy radiation in low doses used to create images used to diagnose diseases. Radiation particles pass through the body and the images are shaded based on their density. Dense structures, like bone, will block most of the particles and appear white. Structures containing air will be black, and those in between like muscle, fat, and fluids will appear as shades of gray.

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