Primary adenocarcinoma of the urinary bladder: differential diagnosis and clinical relevance

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2013 Mar;137(3):371-81. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2012-0076-RA.


Context: Glandular lesions of the urinary bladder include a broad spectrum of entities ranging from completely benign glandular lesions to primary and secondary malignancies. Common benign bladder lesions that exhibit glandular differentiation include cystitis cystica, cystitis glandularis, von Brunn nests, nephrogenic adenoma, intestinal metaplasia, urachal remnant, endometriosis, and prostatic-type polyp. The World Health Organization defines primary adenocarcinoma of the bladder as an epithelial malignancy with pure glandular differentiation without evidence of typical urothelial carcinoma. Malignant lesions that should be included in the differential diagnosis of a primary adenocarcinoma of the bladder include noninvasive and invasive urothelial carcinoma with glandular differentiation and secondary malignancies involving the bladder by direct extension or metastasis. The recognition and distinction of these different entities may be a challenge for pathologists, but they are of great clinical importance.

Objective: To review features of primary bladder adenocarcinoma as well as those entities that need to be differentiated from primary bladder adenocarcinoma, with emphasis on clinical findings, pathologic characteristics, and immunoprofiles.

Data sources: Selected original articles published in the PubMed service of the US National Library of Medicine.

Conclusions: The accurate diagnosis of adenocarcinoma of the urinary bladder is important and challenging. It has to prompt an extensive clinical workup to rule out other glandular lesions in the urinary bladder, especially the possibility of secondary involvement of the bladder by an adenocarcinoma from a different site.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / diagnosis*