Urothelial cells are cells that line your urethra, bladder, kidneys, and other organs in your urinary system. Urothelial cancer is any cancer that starts in these cells. It’s also called transitional cell cancer.

Urothelial cancers can start anywhere you have urothelial cells, but most start in the bladder.


Symptoms of urothelial cancer include:

  • Blood in your urine, which may make your urine look red or brown
  • Back pain, especially lower back pain on one side
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain or burning feeling when you urinate
  • Nausea


Chemotherapy is usually the first treatment used for urothelial cancer. Many patients are also given immunotherapy, which causes your body’s immune system to attack your cancer cells, after chemotherapy to further destroy cancer cells.

Some cases of urothelial cancer may be treated with surgery. Depending on where your cancer is and how far it’s spread, your doctor may recommend removing your kidney, all or part of the ureter, all or part of your bladder, and bladder cuff.

Risk Factors

Factors that make you more likely to develop urothelial cancer include:

  • Being male
  • Being over 70 years old
  • Smoking
  • Being white – white people are about twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as people who are Black or Hispanic
  • Having chronic urinary tract, kidney, or bladder infections
  • Certain birth defects in your bladder
  • Having a family member with urothelial cancer
  • Taking the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide for a long time
  • Long-term exposure to chemicals used to make plastics, fabrics, leather, and rubber
  • Long-term use of certain painkillers