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Bladder Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Bladder cancer can often be found early because it can cause signs or symptoms that lead a person to see a health care provider.

Blood in the urine

Most often, blood in the urine (hematuria) is the first sign of bladder cancer. There may be enough blood to change the color of the urine to orange, pink, or, less often, dark 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 symptoms a person is having or as part of a general medical check-up.

Blood might not be visible in the urine every day if a person has bladder cancer. It might go away and then come back at some point.

Usually, early bladder cancer (cancer that is small and still only in the bladder) causes bleeding but little or no pain or other symptoms.

Most often, having blood in your urine doesn't mean you have bladder cancer. It’s more likely to be due to something else  like an infection, a benign (not cancer) tumor, a stone in the kidney or bladder, or some other benign kidney disease. Still, it’s important to have it checked by a doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

Changes in bladder habits or symptoms of irritation

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

  • Having to go more often than usual
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Feeling as if you need to go right away, even when your bladder isn't full
  • Having trouble going or having a weak urine stream
  • Having to get up to go many times during the night

These symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than cancer, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI), bladder stones, an overactive bladder, or an enlarged prostate (in men). Still, it’s 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 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
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Swelling in the feet
  • Bone pain

Again, many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than bladder cancer, but it’s important to have them checked.

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

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

DeGeorge KC, Holt HR, Hodges SC. Bladder Cancer: Diagnosis and Treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2017;96(8):507-514.

Lotan Y, Choueiri TK. Clinical presentation, diagnosis, and staging of bladder cancer. UpToDate. 2023. Accessed at on October 17, 2023.

National Cancer Institute. Bladder Cancer Symptoms. 2023. Accessed at on October 17, 2023.

Smith AB, Balar AV, Milowsky MI, Chen RC. Chapter 80: Carcinoma of the Bladder. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2020.

Last Revised: March 12, 2024

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