Symptoms of bladder cancer

The main symptom of bladder cancer is blood in your urine. This is the same for both men and women. Bladder cancer can also cause problems with passing urine.

Blood in the urine

Blood in the urine is the most common symptom of bladder cancer. Around 80 out of 100 people with bladder cancer (around 80%) have some blood in their urine. Doctors call blood in the urine haematuria (pronounced heem-at-you-ree-ah).

You may see the blood in your urine. It usually looks bright red. Rarely, it may look dark brown. Sometimes the blood is there in such small amounts that you can't see it. But a urine test will pick it up.

The blood may not be there all the time. It can come and go. The bleeding is not usually painful. But if you ever see blood in your urine, you should go to your GP.  

It can help if you tell your GP whether: 

  • there is blood only when you start to pee
  • the blood is mixed with all the urine you pass
  • you had any pain when you passed the urine with blood in it

Problems passing urine

Other symptoms of bladder cancer can include:

  • passing urine very often (frequency)
  • passing urine very suddenly (urgency)
  • pain or a burning sensation when passing urine

These symptoms are much more likely to be caused by other conditions rather than cancer. For example a urine infection, particularly if you do not have blood in your urine. For men, the symptoms could be caused by an enlarged prostate gland. 

Tell your doctor straight away if you have these symptoms. If you have an infection, it can usually be treated quickly with antibiotics. And it is always best to check for cancer as early as possible so that it can be diagnosed while it is easier to treat.

Other symptoms

You might have other symptoms if bladder cancer is locally advanced or has spread to other parts of the body (advanced bladder cancer). These include:

  • weight loss for no reason
  • pain in your back, lower tummy or bones
  • feeling tired and unwell
When to see your doctor

You should see your GP if you have any of these symptoms. But remember, they can all be caused by other medical conditions. Most people with these symptoms don't have bladder cancer. 

Last reviewed: 
15 Sep 2022
Next review due: 
15 Sep 2025
  • Suspected cancer: Recognition and referral
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), June 2015

  • BMJ Best Practice. Bladder Cancer
    D Lamm and others
    BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, 2018

  • Bladder Cancer: diagnosis and management of bladder cancer. 
    National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), 2015

  • EAU Guidelines on Non-muscle-invasive Bladder Cancer (TaT1 and CIS)
    M Babjuk and others
    European Association of Urology, 2022

  • EAU Guideline on Muscle-invasive and Metastatic Bladder Cancer
    J A Witjes and others
    European Association of Urology, 2022

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

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