Bladder cancer develops in the cells that line the inner walls of the bladder, a muscular organ in the pelvis that stores liquid waste (urine). During urination, the muscles in the bladder contract, forcing the stored urine into the urethra, where it then flows out of the body.
For reasons that are not yet fully understood within the general medical community, bladder cells sometimes undergo abnormal changes that cause them to grow and divide uncontrollably. The resulting excess cells then bind together and form tumors.
Early signs of bladder cancer
Bladder cancer can be detected early—before it has spread beyond the bladder—when more treatments are generally available. Most of the early-stage symptoms involve urination. In many cases, the first noticeable sign of bladder cancer is blood in the urine (hematuria), which can make the urine appear dark yellow, light pink, bright red or reddish-brown. Sometimes, a microscopic amount of blood is present, which cannot be seen with the naked eye and can only be detected by a lab test, such as a urinalysis or urine cytology.
Other, lesser-known symptoms of bladder cancer include:
- Pain and burning sensations during urination
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Urinary urgency, even when the bladder is not full
- An inability to empty the bladder
- A weak urine stream
Most bladder cancer symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions as well, including urinary tract infections, kidney stones and noncancerous bladder masses. Therefore, it is important to have the cause promptly investigated by a physician. It is also important for women to be especially vigilant for hematuria. Although bladder cancer symptoms are generally the same in men and women, women are accustomed to seeing blood associated with normal menstruation, and therefore they may be less inclined to discuss hematuria with a physician.
Signs of advanced bladder cancer
As a bladder tumor grows and spreads to other tissues and organs, it may cause additional symptoms, such as:
- Pelvic or low back pain
- Loss of appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Bone pain
- Swollen feet
- Overwhelming fatigue
- General weakness
Much like the early symptoms of bladder cancer, the advanced symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions as well. To help ensure an accurate diagnosis and the best possible outcome, it is important to promptly discuss any unusual changes with a physician.
Why choose Moffitt Cancer Center for bladder cancer treatment?
The renowned Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center features a multispecialty team that focuses exclusively on the diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer. We offer the latest options—as well as a full range of supportive care services—in a single location. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Moffitt is also nationally recognized for our extensive research initiatives, groundbreaking treatment advances and robust clinical trials program.
If you would like to discuss your bladder cancer symptoms with a specialist in the Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, you can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing our new patient registration form online. As Florida’s top cancer hospital, we have turned the traditional patient care model on its head. Our goal is to provide our patients with rapid, individualized care so they can begin their treatment journey as soon as possible.
Medically reviewed by Scott Gilbert, MD, Department of Genitourinary Oncology