The prognosis for superficial bladder cancer depends on how aggressive the tumour is (i.e. ‘low grade’ or ‘high grade’).
In low-grade tumours, the tumour will reoccur within 5 years in around 30–50% of cases, and will become more aggressive in about 1–5% of cases.
High-grade tumours are more likely to reoccur (about 70% will do so) and the risk that the cancer will progress is about 30% – also significantly higher than for low-grade tumours.
For muscle invasive tumours, the prognosis depends on the extent to which the tumour has grown into the surrounding tissues, in particular whether it has grown into the lymph nodes and whether there are metastases in other organs.
The 10-year survival rate after bladder removal where there is no lymph node involvement and no distant metastases is between 60 and 90%, depending on how deep into the tissues the tumour has penetrated (except where the tumour has grown into nearby organs, where it falls to about 35%). If there is lymph node involvement, the 10-year survival rate is just 17%.
Once the tumour has metastasised, the disease can no longer be cured, and without treatment most patients will die within 6 months. Studies on the efficacy of chemotherapy have found that it is able to extend the average survival time to 15 months. In individual cases, this may be much longer. However, these figures do not take into account the use of the new checkpoint inhibitors following unsuccessful chemotherapy.