ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.
People with bladder cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Symptoms are changes that you can feel in your body. Signs are changes in something measured, like by taking your blood pressure or doing a lab test. Together, symptoms and signs can help describe a medical problem. Sometimes, people with bladder cancer do not have any of the symptoms and signs described below. Or, the cause of a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not cancer.
Blood or blood clots in the urine
Pain or burning sensation during urination
Feeling the need to urinate many times throughout the night
Feeling the need to urinate, but not being able to pass urine
Lower back pain on 1 side of the body
Most often, bladder cancer is diagnosed after a person tells their doctor about blood in the urine, also called hematuria. "Gross hematuria" is a medical term that means that enough blood is present in the urine that the patient can see it. It is also possible that there are small amounts of blood in the urine that cannot be seen. This is called "microscopic hematuria," and it can only be found with a urine test.
General urine tests are not used to make a specific diagnosis of bladder cancer because hematuria can be a sign of several other conditions that are not cancer, such as an infection or kidney stones. One type of urine test that can find out whether there is cancer is cytology, a test in which the urine is studied under a microscope to look for cancer cells (see Diagnosis for more information).
Sometimes when the first symptoms of bladder cancer appear, the cancer has already spread to another part of the body. In this situation, the symptoms depend on where the cancer has spread. For example, cancer that has spread to the lungs may cause a cough or shortness of breath, spread to the liver may cause abdominal pain or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), and spread to the bone may cause bone pain or a fracture (broken bone). Other symptoms of advanced bladder cancer may include pain in the back or pelvis, unexplained appetite loss, and weight loss.
If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.
If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. Managing symptoms may also be called "palliative care" or "supportive care." It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.
The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.