May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month: Know the Symptoms
- If you’re finding blood in your urine, could it be a sign of bladder cancer? The answer is yes, but there are other symptoms, as well.
- Hematuria, the presence of blood in the urine, is typically the first sign of bladder cancer. But don’t jump to conclusions, as blood can be present in your urine for various other health issues.
- Be on the lookout for various colors. Blood can change the urine’s color to orange, pink and, in some extreme cases, dark red.
May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, and this is an important question to ask if it applies to you.Read More
The ‘Most Common’ Symptom
Hematuria, the presence of blood in the urine, is typically the first sign of bladder cancer. But don’t jump to conclusions, as blood can be present in your urine for various other health issues.
Blood in your urine is rightfully concerning; it’s not easy to overlook. But you’ll need to be on the lookout for various colors. Blood can change the urine’s color to orange, pink and, in some extreme cases, dark red.
“That (hematuria) is far and away the most common presenting symptom,” Dr. Arjun Balar, former director of the genitourinary medical oncology program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center and current vice president of global clinical development for Loxo Oncology at Eli Lilly, previously told SurvivorNet.
In the early stages of bladder cancer, when the tumor is small and cancer cells are confined to the bladder, this bleeding is typically painless.
Two aspects of hematuria that might cause people to put off seeking a medical evaluation are that it isn’t painful, and the symptoms can be brief and irregular. If there are only small amounts of blood in the urine, sometimes it won’t make a visible difference and can only be detected through urinalysis (a test of your urine). Patients who catch the disease early can confront it while it’s still highly treatable.
When someone reports blood in their urine, doctors run tests to evaluate the entire urinary system. This includes the kidneys, the ureters (tubes that bring the urine from the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder and the urethra (which empties the urine).
“For anyone with blood in the urine, we have to do tests to determine what the source of that bleeding might be. And that source of bleeding could be anywhere in the urinary tract,” Dr. Jay Shah, a urologic oncologist specializing in the treatment of bladder cancer and other urologic cancers at the Stanford Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
Other Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
According to Dr. Balar, other bladder cancer symptoms resemble the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI).
In fact, patients may only learn that they have bladder cancer after “many courses of antibiotics to treat what was thought to be a urinary tract infection that simply did not get better,” Dr. Balar said.
“Early acknowledgement of symptoms, and not ignoring symptoms is probably one of the other most important things that you can do,” he added.
Besides blood in the urine, other symptoms involve changes in urinary habits or discomfort while urinating. These may include:
- Needing to urinate more frequently than you typically would
- Feeling like you need to urinate urgently even when your bladder isn’t full
- Waking up to urinate many times throughout a night
- Having a trouble urinating because of pain or a burning sensation
Frequent urination, urgent urination and uncomfortable urination are all symptoms of bladder cancer. People with advanced-stage bladder cancer may experience additional symptoms, including:
- Inability to urinate
- Pain on one side of the lower back and pelvis
- Loss of appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Bone pain
- Swollen feet
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms, make sure to let your doctor know right away.
Contributing: Joe Kerwin