Early Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is more prevalent than you might realize, although it does not get as much public attention as breast and other types of cancer. Fortunately, bladder cancer is highly treatable when caught early; so it pays to be familiar with its common symptoms.

Bladder Cancer at a Glance

Most bladder cancers begin in the cells that line the wall of the bladder, an organ in our lower abdomen that stores urine. Men are far more likely to develop bladder cancer than women. Of the approximately 71,000 people diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2009, more than 52,000 were men. Bladder cancer is the second most common genitourinary cancer after prostate cancer, and the fourth most common cancer in men.

Although bladder cancer can strike at any age, your risk for developing it increases with age. The typical bladder cancer patient is generally in his or her early 70s. Smoking is also a significant risk factor. In fact, experts believe smoking is responsible for about half of the cases of bladder cancer in the U.S. While highly treatable, this cancer does have a high rate of recurrence. If you've had bladder cancer, your physician will continue to monitor you closely so he or she can detect a recurrence as early as possible.

Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Blood in your urine (hematuria) is by far the most common symptom of bladder cancer, occurring in more than 80 percent of patients. Sometimes the blood is visible with the naked eye, and may appear dark brown or bright red. More likely, however, hematuria is painless and your physician can only detect it under a microscope.

It's important to note that although blood in the urine is the most frequent bladder cancer symptom, bladder cancer does not cause most cases of hematuria. In fact, less than one out of every 1,000 cases of hematuria are due to the presence of cancer. Kidney stones, urinary tract infections, enlarged prostate, and an overactive bladder can all precipitate blood in the urine.

Other Common Symptoms

  • Frequent urination or frequent urge to urinate, especially without results
  • Pain-usually a burning sensation-during urination (dysuria)
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain

Less Common Symptoms

  • Back pain
  • Bone pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling of the legs

If you experience any of these symptoms, see your physician promptly. Remember, having one or more symptoms does not necessarily mean you have cancer, but it's better to rule it out as soon as possible.




"What you need to know about bladder cancer." National Cancer Institute. Web.


"Bladder cancer symptoms." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Web. 13 January 2009.


"SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Bladder Cancer." Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results. National Cancer Institute. Web. November 2008. http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/urinb.html

Nordqvist, Christian. "What Is Bladder Cancer? What Causes Bladder Cancer?"Medical News Today. Web. 12 October 2009. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/167077.php

Mohammed, Aza, Khan, Ziauddin, Zamora, Ignacio and Bhatti, Aftab. "Biological Markers in the Diagnosis of Recurrent Bladder Cancer: An Overview." Expert Review of Molecular Diagnostics 8(1) (2008): 63-72. Medscape Medical News. Web. 12 Oct 2009. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/568353