Bladder cancer can often be detected early because it can cause blood in the urine or other urinary symptoms that prompt a person to see a health care provider.
Blood in the urine
Blood in the urine (called hematuria) is often the first symptom of bladder cancer. There may be enough blood to change the color of the urine to orange, pink, or often dark red. Sometimes the color of the urine is normal, but a small amount of blood is detected due to other symptoms or during a urinalysis (urinalysis) as part of a general doctor’s examination.
Blood may appear one day and not the next, and urine may remain clear for weeks or even months. But if a person has bladder cancer, the blood will come back at some point.
Usually, early-stage bladder cancer (when it’s small and only in the bladder) causes bleeding but little pain or other symptoms.
Blood in the urine does not mean bladder cancer. It is often caused by an infection, a benign (not cancerous) tumor, a kidney or bladder stone, or other benign kidney disease. However, it is important to see a doctor to find out the cause.
Changes in bladder habits or symptoms of irritation
Bladder cancer can sometimes cause changes in the urine, such as:
Need to urinate more often than usual
Pain and burning when urinating
Even if the bladder is not full, it feels like you need to go right away
Difficulty urinating or weak urine flow
Need to get up to urinate frequently during the night
These symptoms can be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI), bladder stones, an overactive bladder, or an enlarged prostate (in men). However, if necessary, it is important to see a doctor to find the cause and treat it.
Symptoms of advanced bladder cancer
Bladder cancer that is enlarged or has spread to other parts of the body can sometimes cause other symptoms, such as:
Inability to urinate
Back pain on one side
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Feeling tired or weak
Swelling of the feet
Again, most of these symptoms are due to something other than bladder cancer, but it’s important to get them checked out.