Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Because the bladder is responsible for holding urine after it is produced by the kidneys, many symptoms of bladder cancer may relate to urination abnormalities. Understanding when symptoms are a sign of something serious and either diagnosing bladder cancer or confirming a previous diagnosis require expertise from specialists trained and experienced in treating bladder cancer.

Early warning signs of bladder cancer

Blood in the urine (hematuria): This is typically the first sign of bladder cancer. It may be present on a regular basis or disappear and reappear over the course of days or weeks. Sometimes blood is present in such a small amount that it can’t be seen with the naked eye, called microscopic hematuria, but a urine test may be able to detect it. Even a small amount of blood may cause the color of urine to change to orange, pink or, rarely, dark red. When blood causes urine’s color to change, it’s called gross hematuria.

Early-stage bladder cancer doesn’t usually cause pain or other symptoms besides bleeding. But blood in the urine doesn’t always mean there’s a tumor in the bladder. It’s more likely to be caused by a less serious condition, such as an infection. kidney stones, bladder stones, or noncancerous tumors or kidney diseases. It’s also important to note that blood from menstruation may show up in a woman’s urine test, which may cause a false-positive test result. In this case, doctors may recommend repeating the test.

Urination changes: Changes in urination are more commonly a sign of a less serious condition, such as a benign tumor, infection, urinary tract infection, bladder stones, an overactive bladder or, in men, an enlarged prostate. But they also may be another early sign of bladder cancer symptoms. These changes may include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Inability to urinate
  • Feeling of urination urgency, even when the bladder isn’t full
  • Weak urine stream

Signs of advanced bladder cancer

When bladder tumors grow larger, or cancer cells spread to other areas of the body, they may cause symptoms including:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Lower back pain, generally focused on one side
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Feet swelling
  • Bone pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Appetite loss

If bladder cancer has spread, or metastasized, to another part of the body, it may cause symptoms related to that body part.

  • Lungs: Coughing or shortness of breath
  • Liver: Abdominal pain or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and/or eyes)
  • Bones: Pain or fracture

It is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment.