Bladder Cancer: Signs, symptoms, and other important information


Urologist Cletus Georges, MD, finished Zoology (Biomedical Options) and graduated with honors from Andrews University in 1987.  In 1991, he got his medical degree at Cornell University Medical College.  Dr. Cletus Georges obtained his specialization in General Surgery and Urology Residency from Northwestern McGaw Medical Center.  Apart from being a board-certified urologist, Dr. Georges also held several administrative and teaching posts.

For this blog, Dr. Cletus Georges shares important points on bladder cancer to help facilitate early detection of the disease.

Blood in the urine

Bladder cancer typically refers to any cancer coming from the urinary bladder tissues.  An important sign to look for is blood in the urine, which in many cases may be visible or detectable only by microscope.  Blood in the urine is the most common symptom in bladder cancer, and it is hard to detect because microscope is needed to see it and it is also painless.  

Visible blood in the urine may be of only short duration, and a urine test may be required to confirm non-visible blood.  Somewhere between 80 and 90% of people with bladder cancer started with visible blood.  

Dr. Cletus Georges also notes that blood in the urine may also be caused by other conditions, such as bladder or ureteric stones, infection, kidney disease, kidney cancers, or vascular malformations. However, most of these conditions would cause pain for the patient.

Other symptoms

There are other symptoms to look for in bladder cancer, such as pain or discomfort during urination, frequent urination, and feeling the need to urinate without being able to do so.  Like blood in the urine, Dr. Cletus Georges points out that these signs and symptoms are not specific to bladder cancer and may also be caused by non-cancerous conditions.

Some rare forms of bladder cancer produce mucus, which in turn causes the urine to be thicker.

People in advanced stages of bladder cancer may experience pelvic pain, swelling in the lower extremities, and flank pain.  It is very rare that a palpable mass can be detected on physical examination.

Risk factors

Bladder cancer can be caused by smoking, family history, frequent bladder infections, and chemical exposure.

Diagnosis and treatment

Dr. Cletus Georges explains that diagnosis is typically through cystoscopy with tissue biopsies.  Treatment meanwhile depends on the stage of cancer.  Among the treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy, or a combination of these.