Every year as many as 11,000 men and 5,000 women succumb to bladder cancer.1 This cancer of the urinary bladder affects the bladder lining and is the sixth most commonly occurring form of cancer in the country.2 Luckily, some signs could alert you to the problem early enough to save your life. We list these here so you can learn to spot them and act in time.
When bladder cancer is in its early stages, you may notice the following symptoms. While some of them may point to other conditions as well, being aware of the possibility of bladder cancer may help you catch it early.
Blood In Urine (Hematuria): Spotting, Pink Urine, Clotted Blood
Arguably one of the best-known symptoms of bladder cancer, blood in your urine is a red flag you must not ignore. About 80 percent or 4 in 5 people with bladder cancer experience this symptom.3
The blood itself may color your urine pink, orange, or even dark red. It could also pass as clotted blood. If the quantity is minute, it may only be picked up by a urine test because there isn’t enough to perceptibly change the color of the urine.4
Remember, the symptom is not always associated with pain. You may find blood in the urine with no pain at all.5
Even if the blood or spotting is not persistent, it merits a proper check-up. Blood in urine or hematuria may have other causes like a bladder or kidney infection, kidney stones, or an enlarged prostate. But on the chance that it is cancer, you would not want to put off further investigation. Plus, these other conditions too will need medication and treatment.6
Painful Urination (Dysuria): Stinging, Burning, Discomfort
While less common than blood in the urine, dysuria or pain while urinating could affect some bladder cancer.7 You could feel a stinging or burning pain or some nagging discomfort while urinating.
While this could also be due to a lower urinary tract infection or other bladder problems, be aware that bladder cancer is a possibility. Further review can help find the exact reason.8
Frequent Urination And Urgent Need To Urinate
Besides needing to urinate a lot more than you normally do, bladder cancer may also increase the urgency you feel. In other words, where you would normally be able to hold on or anticipate the need to urinate, now there is, instead, a sudden and urgent need to empty your bladder.
Keep a watchful eye for any changes in frequency or urgency of urination. If this is the only symptom, you are more likely to have some other urinary infection. If you have also noticed blood in the urine, it may point toward bladder cancer.9 But do keep in mind that if you’re in the early stages of bladder cancer, you may not have realized small quantities of blood are mixed in with the urine. The color of the urine may still be close to normal. Which is why you should have this sign checked anyway.
Pain In Lower Back Or Abdomen
If you have a painful stomachache or lower backache that won’t budge, one possible reason, among dozens of other reasons like digestive trouble or bad posture, is of bladder cancer. While this is not a very frequent symptom reported by people with bladder cancer, some do complain of it. Reason enough to flag it.10
Pain In Bones, Swollen Feet, Weight Loss: Advanced Stage Bladder Cancer Symptoms
The symptoms you’ve just read about crop up when the cancer starts to develop. As the condition progresses, it could affect other parts of the body, something known as metastatic cancer, presenting other additional symptoms. The bladder cancer itself can sometimes become so large that it causes these problems or symptoms11:
- Not being able to pass any urine
- Pain on one side of the lower back
- Pain on the bones
- Swollen feet
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
Women Alert: Don’t Ignore Pain And Blood In Urine
Bladder cancer is often viewed as a man’s disease. Unfortunately, that really isn’t the case. While more men than women are diagnosed with the cancer, more women die as a proportion of those diagnosed than men. While 11,000 men of the 55,000 affected succumb, a higher ratio of women – 5000 of the 17,000 affected – die from their bladder cancer.12
So are bladder cancer symptoms in men different to bladder cancer symptoms in women? Is that why more women discover the disease at a later more advanced stage and therefore don’t respond as well to treatment? Unfortunately, the single biggest identifier of bladder cancer – blood in the urine – is noticed by women with the illness, but dismissed as menstrual blood or monthly spotting. It is also confused with urinary tract infections (UTIs), simple cystitis, or post-menopausal bleeding. So the problem may be a delay in getting medical help as well as some degree of problem with diagnosing it.
So if you’re a woman, be as wary of colored urine as a man. If you do have a bladder infection that’s been treated but hasn’t helped your symptoms, it could be masking a bladder cancer. Do get checked for bladder cancer as well, especially if medication for the infection hasn’t helped.13
Important! Be Alert To Signs If You Are In High-Risk Groups: Smoking is known to significantly increase your risk of this kind of cancer, with smokers being twice as prone to having it than non-smokers.14 Bladder cancer also has a high degree of recurrence, so if you’ve had it before, you are more at risk than others. Birth defects of the bladder or workplace exposure to chemicals may also increase your risk of developing bladder cancer. If you are in the high-risk groups and spot any of the symptoms, do not ignore them.15
|↑1, ↑12||Bladder Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Bladder Cancer. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3||Symptoms. Cancer Research UK.|
|↑4, ↑11||Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Cancer. American Cancer Society.|
|↑5||Bladder Cancer. National Health Service.|
|↑6||Blood in urine. National Health Service.|
|↑7, ↑9||Symptoms. Urology Care Foundation.|
|↑8||Bremnor, Judy D., and Richard Sadovsky. “Evaluation of dysuria in adults.” American family physician 65, no. 8 (2002): 1589-1598.|
|↑10||Signs and symptoms of bladder cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support.|
|↑13, ↑14||Women & Bladder Cancer. Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.|
|↑15||Can Bladder Cancer Be Found Early?. American Cancer Society.|