Smarter Decisions,
Better Care

UpToDate synthesizes the most recent medical information into evidence-based practical recommendations clinicians trust to make the right point-of-care decisions.

  • Rigorous editorial process: Evidence-based treatment recommendations
  • World-Renowned physician authors: over 5,100 physician authors and editors around the globe
  • Innovative technology: integrates into the workflow; access from EMRs

Choose from the list below to learn more about subscriptions for a:

Subscribers log in here

Small cell carcinoma of the bladder


Small cell carcinoma of the bladder is a rare, aggressive, poorly differentiated neuroendocrine neoplasm that is similar to small cell carcinoma of the lung in clinical behavior. Although small cell carcinoma is classified as a discrete entity, molecular studies have indicated that small cell carcinoma and urothelial cancer are derived from the same clonal population [1]. Bladder small cell carcinoma is frequently found in conjunction with other histologic forms of bladder cancer. As an example, in a series of 66 cases from one institution, 44 (68 percent) had other tumor types present, including elements of urothelial cancer in 38 cases (58 percent of the total series) [2]. Similarly, a series of 51 cases of small cell carcinoma at another institution reported that elements of urothelial carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma were seen in 70, 8, and 10 percent of the cases, respectively [3].

Small cell carcinoma of the bladder will be reviewed here. Extrapulmonary small cell carcinomas at other sites are discussed separately. (See "Extrapulmonary small cell cancer".)


Between 1991 and 2005, the incidence of small cell carcinoma (SCC) of the bladder increased significantly from 0.05 to 0.14 cases per 100,000 population, but still represents less than one percent of all bladder tumors [4,5]. There are roughly 500 new cases of SCC of the bladder annually. In an analysis of demographics for patients with SCC using the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End-Results (SEER) database, the following was noted [5]:

  • Men are affected more commonly than women (76 versus 24 percent)
  • Whites are affected more commonly than non-whites (91 versus 9 percent).
  • The median age of diagnosis of SCC is 73 years.  
  • Median overall survival was 11 months, but outcomes varied substantially based on the presence or absence of distant metastases at the time of diagnosis.

A past history of smoking has also been associated with SCC of the bladder [2].


Subscribers log in here

To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information or to purchase a personal subscription, click below on the option that best describes you:
Literature review current through: Mar 2014. | This topic last updated: Nov 12, 2012.
The content on the UpToDate website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. The use of this website is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use ©2014 UpToDate, Inc.
  1. Cheng L, Jones TD, McCarthy RP, et al. Molecular genetic evidence for a common clonal origin of urinary bladder small cell carcinoma and coexisting urothelial carcinoma. Am J Pathol 2005; 166:1533.
  2. Cheng L, Pan CX, Yang XJ, et al. Small cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder: a clinicopathologic analysis of 64 patients. Cancer 2004; 101:957.
  3. Abrahams NA, Moran C, Reyes AO, et al. Small cell carcinoma of the bladder: a contemporary clinicopathological study of 51 cases. Histopathology 2005; 46:57.
  4. Sved P, Gomez P, Manoharan M, et al. Small cell carcinoma of the bladder. BJU Int 2004; 94:12.
  5. Koay EJ, Teh BS, Paulino AC, Butler EB. A Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results analysis of small cell carcinoma of the bladder: epidemiology, prognostic variables, and treatment trends. Cancer 2011; 117:5325.
  6. Trias I, Algaba F, Condom E, et al. Small cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder. Presentation of 23 cases and review of 134 published cases. Eur Urol 2001; 39:85.
  7. Quek ML, Nichols PW, Yamzon J, et al. Radical cystectomy for primary neuroendocrine tumors of the bladder: the university of southern california experience. J Urol 2005; 174:93.
  8. Swanson PE, Brooks R, Pearse H, Stenzel P. Small cell carcinoma of urinary bladder. Urology 1988; 32:558.
  9. Choong NW, Quevedo JF, Kaur JS. Small cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder. The Mayo Clinic experience. Cancer 2005; 103:1172.
  10. Siefker-Radtke AO, Dinney CP, Abrahams NA, et al. Evidence supporting preoperative chemotherapy for small cell carcinoma of the bladder: a retrospective review of the M. D. Anderson cancer experience. J Urol 2004; 172:481.
  11. Siefker-Radtke AO, Kamat AM, Grossman HB, et al. Phase II clinical trial of neoadjuvant alternating doublet chemotherapy with ifosfamide/doxorubicin and etoposide/cisplatin in small-cell urothelial cancer. J Clin Oncol 2009; 27:2592.
  12. Mukesh M, Cook N, Hollingdale AE, et al. Small cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder: a 15-year retrospective review of treatment and survival in the Anglian Cancer Network. BJU Int 2009; 103:747.
  13. Ismaili N, Arifi S, Flechon A, et al. Small cell cancer of the bladder: pathology, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Bull Cancer 2009; 96:E30.
  14. Bex A, de Vries R, Pos F, et al. Long-term survival after sequential chemoradiation for limited disease small cell carcinoma of the bladder. World J Urol 2009; 27:101.
  15. Lester JF, Hudson E, Barber JB. Bladder preservation in small cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder: an institutional experience and review of the literature. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 2006; 18:608.
  16. Asmis TR, Reaume MN, Dahrouge S, Malone S. Genitourinary small cell carcinoma: a retrospective review of treatment and survival patterns at The Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Center. BJU Int 2006; 97:711.
  17. Lohrisch C, Murray N, Pickles T, Sullivan L. Small cell carcinoma of the bladder: long term outcome with integrated chemoradiation. Cancer 1999; 86:2346.
  18. Ismaili N, Heudel PE, Elkarak F, et al. Outcome of recurrent and metastatic small cell carcinoma of the bladder. BMC Urol 2009; 9:4.
  19. Bex A, Nieuwenhuijzen JA, Kerst M, et al. Small cell carcinoma of bladder: a single-center prospective study of 25 cases treated in analogy to small cell lung cancer. Urology 2005; 65:295.
  20. Bex A, Sonke GS, Pos FJ, et al. Symptomatic brain metastases from small-cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder: The Netherlands Cancer Institute experience and literature review. Ann Oncol 2010; 21:2240.