People with bladder cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with bladder cancer do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not cancer.
Most often, bladder cancer is diagnosed after a person tells his or her doctor about blood in the urine, also called hematuria. "Gross hematuria" 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.Blood in the urine doesn't always mean you have bladder cancer. More often it's caused by other things like an infection, benign (not cancer) tumors, stones in the kidney or bladder, or other benign kidney diseases. Still, it’s important to have it checked by a doctor so the cause can be found.
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 you have blood in your urine (hematuria), make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out. Also make an appointment with your doctor if you have other signs or symptoms that worry you.