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Is It a Urinary Tract Infection or Bladder Cancer?

Man with lower bowel pain

Bladder infections are the most frequently diagnosed type of urinary tract infection (UTI). A bladder infection occurs when bacteria enter the body through the urethra and travel to the bladder, where they settle and multiply. In addition to being painful, an untreated bladder infection can potentially spread to the kidneys and cause permanent damage.

A less common but more serious condition, bladder cancer occurs when cells in the bladder lining undergo abnormal changes that cause them to grow and divide very rapidly. The excess cells then bind together and form tumors, which can disrupt normal bladder function and potentially spread to other areas of the body.

It's Important to Know the Difference

Bladder infections and bladder cancer share many common symptoms. Therefore, it is especially important to have persistent UTI symptoms evaluated by a physician who can provide an accurate diagnosis. Here are some signs you should pay close attention to:

  • Bloody, dark, cloudy, bright red or pink-tinged urine
  • Odorous urine
  • Pain or burning sensations during urination
  • Urinary frequency or urgency
  • Bladder spasms
  • Pelvic or low back pain
  • Fever

In general, if you notice any evidence of blood in your urine - which is never normal - or other unusual changes in your urinary habits, you should talk with a physician right away so that you can receive the treatment you need. Usually, bladder infections are treated with antibiotics, while bladder cancer treatment can vary based on many individual factors. Some options include surgery, intravesical chemotherapy, systemic chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy.

Consult With a Specialist

If you would like to discuss your symptoms with a specialist in the Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. When you turn to Moffitt, you can feel confident that you are a top priority of a cancer center that delivers nationally-ranked care in new and transformative ways.