The bladder is a balloon-like organ located in the lower abdomen. This muscular sac holds the urine produced by the kidneys. Bladder cancer develops when cancerous cells develop in the lining of the bladder. The cells grow, forming tumors. If left untreated, bladder cancer can spread to the kidneys, lungs, bones, and brain. Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer among American men; women can also develop the disease, though it is less common. Various symptoms can point to this dangerous illness.

Blood in the Urine

One of the most common symptoms of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, which occurs due to inflammation in the lining of the bladder. The passage of blood into the urine is often the first sign of bladder cancer, although it has other causes as well. People might ignore this symptom for some time because they hope it will go away or assume it is caused by something minor. Individuals with bladder cancer can shed large blood clots from their bladder, which can turn urine bright red or orange. In other cases, blood may only be detectable through a urine test.


Painful Urination

Pain while urinating, a symptom called dysuria, is common in individuals with bladder cancer. If left untreated, dysuria gets worse with time. Men with bladder cancer feel pain in the prostate, penis, and pelvis. Anyone who experiences pain while urinating that does not resolve quickly should see a doctor.


Frequent Urination

The urge to release urine frequently is a symptom of bladder cancer, as well as many other conditions and events including urinary tract infections, diabetes, an enlarged prostate, pregnancy, certain medications, and other health conditions that affect the kidney or bladder. Bladder cancer tumors grow inside the bladder, causing signals that tell the brain the bladder is full to be sent more frequently. Cancer cells can also irritate the bladder walls. Some people with bladder cancer also experience urine retention because they cannot fully empty their bladder.


Frequent Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common, especially in women. In rare instances, UTIs that keep coming could be due to bladder cancer. Therefore, it's important to seek medical attention if symptoms of a urinary tract infection persist despite treatment. People with frequent UTIs may choose to have a bladder cancer screening upon recommendation of their doctor.


Flank Pain

Pain in the lower back and sides can be symptomatic of bladder cancer. Flank pain is more common when bladder cancer blocks the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Pain in the lower back or flank should always be evaluated by a doctor.


Swelling and Pain in the Legs

If bladder cancer spreads beyond the lining of the bladder and to the lymph nodes, blood vessels, or other organs, pain and swelling can occur in the legs or other areas of the body. Pain and swelling is usually a sign of more advanced bladder cancer that has spread and is not common in the early stages.


Pelvic Growths

Most forms of bladder cancer cause cancerous growths within the bladder. If the tumors spread, they can enter the pelvic cavity and affect other organs, including the prostate in men and the uterus in women. Bladder cancer that spreads to the muscles is called muscle-invasive bladder cancer. Pelvic growths may put pressure on other organs and cause discomfort and pain.


Bone Pain

Advanced bladder cancer can spread into the bones, causing pain that typically begins close to the urinary tract, impacting the anus, rectum, and pelvic region. Bone pain can also radiate to the hips and ribs, making walking difficult. Individuals with bone pain related to cancer often have trouble managing the pain.



Anemia occurs when the body has too few red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Therefore, a common symptom of anemia is fatigue. With bladder cancer, anemia may develop due to bleeding from the bladder tumor. Bladder cancer can also lead to anemia by causing blood loss during a radical cystectomy surgery to remove the cancerous organ. Radiation or chemotherapy to treat bladder cancer can also cause anemia.


Weight Loss

Weight loss is often associated with cancers, and bladder cancer is not the exception. In addition to weight loss from cancer itself, caused in part by the body's enhanced efforts to eradicate the illness, cancer treatments can also cause nausea that leads to weight loss. Vomiting or lack of appetite can mean a person with cancer may not be getting the nutrients their body needs to fight off infections and illnesses.


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