Bladder Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Signs and symptoms of bladder cancer

Bladder cancer can often be found early because it causes blood in the urine or other urinary symptoms.

Blood in the urine

In most cases, blood in the urine (called hematuria) is the first warning sign of bladder cancer. Sometimes, there is enough blood to change the color of the urine. Depending on the amount of blood, the urine may be orange, pink, or, less often, darker red. Sometimes, the color of the urine is normal but small amounts of blood are found when a urine test (urinalysis) is done because of other symptoms or as part of a general medical checkup.

Blood may be present one day and absent the next, with the urine remaining clear for weeks or months. If a person has bladder cancer, blood eventually reappears. Usually, the early stages of bladder cancer cause bleeding but little or no pain or other symptoms.

Blood in the urine does not always mean you have bladder cancer. More often it is caused by other things like an infection, benign (non-cancerous) tumors, stones in the kidney or bladder, or other benign kidney diseases. But it is important to have it checked by a doctor so the cause can be found.

Changes in bladder habits or symptoms of irritation

Bladder cancer can sometimes cause changes in urination, such as:

  • Having to urinate more often than usual
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Feeling as if you need to go right away, even when the bladder is not full

These symptoms are also more likely to be caused by a benign condition such as infection, bladder stones, an overactive bladder, or an enlarged prostate (in men). Still, it is important to have them checked by a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

Symptoms of advanced bladder cancer

Bladder cancers that have grown large enough or have spread to other parts of the body can sometimes cause other symptoms, such as:

  • Being unable to urinate
  • Lower back pain on one side
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Swelling in the feet
  • Bone pain

If there is a reason to suspect you might have bladder cancer, the doctor will use one or more exams or tests to find out if it is cancer or something else.


Last Medical Review: 02/26/2014
Last Revised: 02/26/2014