Bladder Cancer Symptoms: 5 Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

5 Early Warning Signs of Bladder Cancer

When caught it its early stages, bladder cancer can be highly treatable. That’s why it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer.

Blood in urine (hematuria)

The main warning sign of bladder cancer is painless blood in the urine, called gross hematuria. The blood is often visible but sometimes the tumors don’t produce enough blood to be seen by the patient (microscopic hematuria), and they’re only found through special tests conducted by a doctor.

It’s not uncommon for patients to delay seeking medical help for two reasons: 1) the bleeding may happen occasionally and briefly, and 2) there’s usually no pain along with the bleeding. Remember: blood in your urine is NEVER normal.

However, blood in the urine does not necessarily mean a diagnosis of bladder cancer. Infections, kidney stones as well as aspirin and other blood-thinning medications may cause bleeding. In fact, the overwhelming majority of patients who have microscopic hematuria do not have cancer.

For bladder cancer survivor Nancy, blood in her urine was her first bladder cancer sign: “My urine looked as though it was mostly blood. There was no pain and no discomfort but lots of blood. Remembering the warning signs of cancer from many years ago, I thought of cancer right away and was very scared, and actually believed that I might bleed to death. We headed home and to the local emergency room.”

Read about Gabrielle’s Symptoms in her story, “Gabrielle’s Pregnancy Saved Her Life.”

Watch our video, “What is hematuria?”

Painful urination

Pain when urinating, urgency, frequency and a constant need to urinate may be symptoms a bladder cancer patient initially experiences. Oftentimes, though, these are merely symptoms of a urinary tract infection and antibiotics become the first line of treatment. To make the necessary distinction between an infection and something more serious, it is critical that a urinalysis and/or culture are done to detect any bacteria in the urine. If the culture is negative for bacteria, patients should be referred to a urologist for further testing.

Bladder cancer patient Timothy, a pediatrician and an adult internal medicine physician, shared, “It was June of 2021 when I started to notice that my urine was dark yellow. Initially, I thought maybe I wasn’t drinking enough water. But then, I also started having intermittent pain with urination.”

Urgent need to urinate

Urination urgency, or feeling like you must pee immediately, can be a sign of bladder cancer. This can happen even when your bladder is not full. If you experience this (it can happen to men and women), we strongly recommend that you go see your primary doctor, or a urologist.

Frequent urination

For late bladder cancer patient Pat, she shared her experience with frequent urination: “I started having to get up at night to go to the bathroom. It was once or twice a night at first, and then up to eight or more times.“

Feeling the need (but unable) to pass urine

Sometimes, the urgent need to urinate is accompanied by the inability to empty your bladder. Again, the need but inability to urinate is likely to be cause by something other than bladder cancer, but it is still very important to get checked out by your doctor.

Other Bladder Cancer Symptoms

Other symptoms that may be indicative of bladder cancer include:

Abdominal pain

When you experience pain in your abdomen that comes and goes or does not go away.


Constantly feeling tired or tiring easily.

Lower back pain

Pain in your lower back that does not feel the same as a pulled muscle or disk problems.

Appetite loss or weight loss

Losing weight without trying or losing interest in eating.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bladder Cancer Symptoms

What are symptoms of advanced bladder cancer?

  • Being unable to urinate
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Overwhelming feeling of being tired or weak
  • Swelling in the feet
  • Pain in your bones
  • Pain in your lower back on one side

How would I know if I had bladder cancer?

Only a doctor can confirm or rule out bladder cancer. Learn how doctors diagnose and monitor bladder cancer.

Do you feel ill with bladder cancer?

Different bladder cancer patients experience different symptoms – there is no one size fits all. Some patients don’t experience any symptoms before their bladder cancer diagnosis.

What should I do if I think I have bladder cancer?

If you are experiencing any of these bladder cancer symptoms,  we strongly recommend that you go see your primary doctor, or a urologist, for a proper diagnosis.