How fast does Bladder Cancer Spread

Bladder cancer spreads at different speeds depending on the type of bladder cancer you have.

Urothelial bladder cancer is slow to spread, while other types are much faster. Urothelial bladder cancer is the most common type of bladder cancer. It typically doesn’t spread very quickly.

In most cases, treatment, if started early enough, can prevent the spread of bladder cancer. But even if bladder cancer has spread to other locations at the time of diagnosis, it can still be treated successfully.

Discussed below are the types of bladder cancer that spread quickly and where these cancers typically spread to.

What types of bladder cancers spread quickly?

According to the American Cancer Society, fast-spreading types of bladder cancer include:

  • Small cell carcinoma: Less than 1% of bladder cancers are small cell carcinoma. This type of bladder cancer can spread very quickly.
  • Adenocarcinoma: About 1% of bladder cancers are adenocarcinomas. These cancers are typically invasive and fast-spreading.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinomas make up about 1% to 2% of all bladder cancer cases. In many cases, these cancers spread and grow quickly.

Where does bladder cancer spread first?

Bladder cancer first spreads into the bladder wall. The bladder wall has four layers. As cancer spreads, it will grow into each layer. When cancer spreads beyond the bladder wall, it can spread to a number of locations, including the:

  • pelvic lymph nodes
  • abdominal lymph nodes
  • liver
  • lungs
  • bones

Does bladder cancer always spread?

Not all bladder cancers spread throughout the body. If caught early, bladder cancer can be treated before it spreads.

Urothelial cancer commonly spreads into the layers of the bladder wall including the muscle. It begins on the urothelial lining of the bladder and can grow up into the bladder cavity, or deeper into the surrounding submucosal and muscle layers. It can also spread beyond the bladder, including to the lungs and bone.

How long does it typically take bladder cancer to spread?

Bladder cancer spreads at different speeds depending on the type of bladder cancer. As an overall rule, small cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma spread faster than urothelial bladder cancer.

Is bladder cancer likely to spread if I’m undergoing treatment?

In most cases, treatment will slow and stop the spread of bladder cancer.

The overall survival rates for bladder cancer are good. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for all stages of bladder cancer was 77% between 2011 and 2017. However, when bladder cancer is aggressive and advanced, it can be treatment-resistant. This means it might continue to spread while you’re undergoing treatment.


The rate at which bladder cancer spreads can depend on a number of factors, including the specific type of bladder cancer, the stage of the cancer, the patient’s age and overall health, and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

If you have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, it is important to discuss the specific characteristics of your cancer and your treatment options with your healthcare team. They can provide you with more information about the expected rate of growth and spread of your cancer and help you develop a treatment plan that is right for you.