Symptoms & Risk Factors

Bladder Cancer Symptoms & Risk Factors

Like most cancers, bladder cancer can be hard to diagnose initially. While there are several symptoms you should be aware of, many other conditions also cause the same symptoms. So it’s important to see a doctor if you have symptoms that concern you. There is no definitive cause of bladder cancer.


If you have any of the following symptoms, consult a doctor immediately:

  • Blood (a rusty, red, or pink hue) or blood clots (dark particles) in your urine
  • Frequent urination 
  • Needing to urinate but not being able to
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain in the lower back on one side

By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may have spread outside the bladder to another part of your body, and you may experience other symptoms as well, depending on where the cancer is. Cancer that has moved to other organs like the liver or the lungs may cause pain, jaundice, coughing, or shortness of breath.

Risk Factors

Research has found many links between heredity, diet, smoking, exposure to certain environmental conditions, and other factors that increase a person’s chance of developing bladder cancer. The following factors may increase bladder cancer risk:

  • Smoking: Smokers are two to four times as likely to develop bladder cancer as nonsmokers, making smoking the most significant risk factor. Smoking is estimated to be responsible for 47 percent of bladder cancers in men and 37 percent in women. 
  • Race: Caucasians are at highest risk. Bladder cancer is diagnosed twice as often in Caucasians as in African-Americans. Hispanics have a lower risk than both groups. African-Americans tend to be diagnosed with a more advanced form of the cancer. Bladder cancer is also twice as likely to be fatal to African-Americans. 
  • Gender: Men are four times as likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer as women are. Bladder cancer is the fourth most diagnosed cancer in men. 
  • Genetics: Some people are genetically predisposed to be more sensitive to carcinogens and can develop cancer at higher rates. 
  • Cyclophosphamide and arsenic: People who have taken the drug cyclophosphamide, used to treat some cancers, are at a higher risk for bladder cancer. Similarly, people who have used arsenic to treat cancer or other conditions are at increased risk. 
  • Age: Nearly 90 percent of all cases of bladder cancer are found in people over the age of 55. 
  • Family history: People with family members who have been diagnosed with bladder cancer are at greater risk. 
  • Chronic bladder inflammation: People who have had chronic bladder inflammation, such as from recurring bladder infections, kidney stones, and bladder stones, are at greater risk.