Is It Bladder Cancer? Detect the Common Symptoms
Medically Reviewed by Carolin Schneider, MD
Bladder cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States; almost 100,000 new bladder cancer cases have been diagnosed in 2021 alone. The cancer occurs in the lining of your bladder and can spread to other parts of your body without proper treatment.
Treatments can have a better chance of working effectively when you start them earlier, but that requires getting an earlier diagnosis. Knowing what symptoms to watch out for can help you start working with your doctor sooner if you receive a cancer diagnosis. Below are a few symptoms to watch for that commonly appear with bladder cancer.
Pain in Your Abdomen
Pain in your abdomen is one of the key symptoms of bladder cancer. Because abdominal pain is also a significant symptom with many other diseases, experiencing this type of pain doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be diagnosed with bladder cancer. However, you should never overlook abdominal pain, especially if it doesn’t go away. Bladder cancer can spread to your bones, resulting in bone pain and back pain on one side. The spread of cancer to your bones usually happens in later stages of this type of cancer.
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in your urine. Sometimes the blood spreads throughout the urine, turning it pink, orange or even red. While blood in your urine can sometimes be very visible, in other cases it occurs in small enough amounts that only your doctor can detect it using a urine test. Because blood in the urine often appears in early stages of bladder cancer, its appearance sometimes makes it possible to catch and treat the cancer early. Blood might also appear in your urine due to an infection, an overactive bladder, an enlarged prostate gland or kidney stones. No matter what, it’s a symptom you should discuss with your doctor.
Other urinary symptoms associated with bladder cancer include pain or burning during urination, feeling the need to urinate frequently, or feeling that need and not being able to act on it when you try. You might also need to get up multiple times during the night to urinate.
Late Stage Symptoms
As bladder cancer progresses, severe appetite loss and weight loss become common symptoms. By the time these symptoms appear, the cancer has probably already spread to other organs. Bladder cancer is most likely to spread to your bones, lungs or liver. Later stages of bladder cancer are also often accompanied by swelling in your lower legs and feet.
What Are Some of the Main Causes of Bladder Cancer?
There are a few genetic and outside factors that can lead to bladder cancer. Smoking is one of the biggest causes, as is exposure to certain toxins, such as arsenic, in the workplace. Treatments for other kinds of cancer may also cause bladder cancer. If you regularly use a catheter for a long period of time, this can raise your risk of developing bladder cancer. Family history and certain genes can also cause bladder issues. Old age is one of the most common reasons that this type of cancer occurs.
Bladder cancer typically starts in your bladder’s lining. Doctors often detect it earlier than other types of cancers because one of its most common symptoms is the presence of blood in urine. However, most of the other symptoms of bladder cancer are easy to mistake for symptoms of separate conditions, and they don’t appear to be cancer initially. Make an appointment to talk with a medical professional if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed here.
“Bladder Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version,” National Cancer Institute
“Bladder Cancer Signs and Symptoms,” American Cancer Society
“Bladder Cancer | Bladder Cancer Symptoms,” Medline Plus
“Bladder Cancer — Cancer Stat Facts,” National Cancer Institute