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What are the symptoms?

Sometimes bladder cancer doesn’t have many symptoms and is found when a urine test is done for another reason. However, most people with bladder cancer do have some symptoms. These symptoms can include:

Blood in the urine (haematuria) – This is the most common symptom of bladder cancer. It often happens suddenly, but is usually not painful. There may be only a small amount of blood in the urine and it may look red or brown. For some people, the blood may come and go, or it may appear only once or twice.

Never ignore blood in your urine. If you notice any blood in your urine, see your doctor and arrange to have your bladder examined with a camera.

Changes in bladder habits – These may include a burning feeling when passing urine, needing to pass urine more often or urgently, not being able to urinate when you feel the urge, and pain while urinating.

Other symptoms – Less commonly, people have pain in one side of their lower abdomen (belly) or back.

Not everyone with these symptoms has bladder cancer, but if you have any of these symptoms or are concerned, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Which health professionals will I see?

Your general practitioner (GP) will arrange the first tests to assess your symptoms. If these tests do not rule out cancer, you will usually be referred to a specialist called a urologist, who will arrange further tests. If bladder cancer is diagnosed, the urologist will consider treatment options.

Often the urologist will discuss your treatment options with other health professionals at what is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting. During and after treatment, you will see a range of health professionals who specialise in different aspects of your care.

GPassists you with treatment decisions and works with your specialists in providing ongoing care
urologist/urological surgeontreats diseases of the male and female urinary systems and the male reproductive system; performs surgery
medical oncologisttreats cancer with drug therapies such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy
radiation oncologisttreats cancer by prescribing and overseeing a course of radiation therapy
cancer care coordinatorcoordinates your care, liaises with other members of the MDT and supports you and your family throughout treatment; care may also be coordinated by a clinical nurse consultant (CNC) or clinical nurse specialist (CNS), such as a urology nurse specialist
nurseadministers drugs and provides care, information and support throughout treatment
continence nurseassesses bladder and bowel control, and helps you find ways to manage any changes
stomal therapy nurseprovides information about surgery and can help you adjust to life with a temporary or permanent stoma
dietitianrecommends an eating plan to follow during treatment and recovery
social workerlinks you to support services and helps you with emotional, practical and financial issues
physiotherapist, occupational therapistassist with physical and practical problems, including restoring movement and mobility after treatment, and recommending aids and equipment
psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellorhelp you manage your emotional response to diagnosis and treatment

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in February 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Dickon Hayne, UWA Medical School, The University of Western Australia, and Head, Urology, South Metropolitan Health Service, WA; BEAT Bladder Cancer Australia; Dr Anne Capp, Senior Staff Specialist, Radiation Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Marc Diocera, Genitourinary Nurse Consultant, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Peter Heathcote, Senior Urologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Adjunct Professor, Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre, QLD; Melissa Le Mesurier, Consumer; Dr James Lynam, Medical Oncologist Staff Specialist, Calvary Mater Newcastle and The University of Newcastle, NSW; John McDonald, Consumer; Michael Twycross, Consumer; Rosemary Watson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria.