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Signs & Symptoms of Bladder Cancer

Bladder Cancer Warning Signs include lower back pain.

As with most cancers, signs and symptoms of bladder cancer don't manifest themselves until the cancer has spread to a more advanced stage. While some people with bladder cancer may experience the following signs and symptoms, other people with bladder cancer experience no changes at all. Keep in mind that these symptoms can be caused by a medical condition other than cancer. Still, it is important that they are not ignored. If you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Some common signs and symptoms of bladder cancer can include: 

  • Blood or blood clots in the urine
  • Frequent need to urinate 
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • Difficulty passing urine even though the feeling to urinate is there 
  • Lower back pain on only one side of the body

In most cases, bladder cancer is diagnosed after a person tells his or her doctor about blood in the urine, which is also called hematuria. When there is enough blood present in the urine that the patient can see it, it is referred to as "gross hematuria." There are also times when there are small amounts of blood in the urine but they can't be seen. This is called "microscopic hematuria," and it can only be found with a urine test. 

Hematuria can be a sign of several other conditions that are not cancer, such as an infection or kidney stones. Because of this, general urine tests aren't used to make a specific diagnosis of bladder cancer. 

As mentioned earlier, the first symptoms of bladder cancer usually appear after the cancer has already spread to another part of the body. When this happens, different symptoms may be experienced. For example, cancer that has spread to the lungs may cause a cough or shortness of breath. If it has spread to the liver, it may result in abdominal pain or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). Cancer that has and spread to the bone may cause bone pain or a fracture (broken bone). Other symptoms of advanced bladder cancer can include unexplained appetite loss, weight loss, and pain in the back or pelvis. 

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Tell him or her how long and how often you've been experiencing the symptom(s) and do your best to answer any additional questions so a proper diagnosis can be made.

If the diagnosis is cancer, your doctor may recommend palliative care (also called supportive care). The goal of palliative care is to help relieve symptoms, which is an important part of cancer care and treatment. Palliative care usually begins right after diagnosis and is 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.