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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. 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 see a specialist to have your bladder examined with a camera.

Changes in bladder habits – Changes may include a burning feeling when passing urine (weeing or peeing), 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. The specialist 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.

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 coordinator, urology nurse specialistcoordinates your care, liaise with other members of the MDT and support 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 stoma
dietitianhelps with nutrition concerns and recommends changes to diet during treatment and recovery
social workerlinks you to support services and helps you with emotional, practical and financial issues
physiotherapisthelps with restoring movement and mobility; a continence physiotherapist provides exercises to help strengthen pelvic floor muscles and improve bladder and bowel control
psychologist, counsellorhelp you manage your emotional response to diagnosis and treatment

Featured resource

Understanding Bladder Cancer

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in February 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Dickon Hayne, Professor of Urology, UWA Medical School, The University of Western Australia, Chair of the Bladder, Urothelial and Penile Cancer Subcommittee, ANZUP Cancer Trials Group, and Head of Urology, South Metropolitan Health Service, WA; A/Prof Tom Shakespeare, Director, Radiation Oncology, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Lismore Public Hospitals, NSW; Helen Anderson, Genitourinary Cancer Nurse Navigator (CNS), Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; BEAT Bladder Cancer Australia; Mark Jenkin, Consumer; Dr Ganessan Kichenadasse, Lead, SA Cancer Clinical Network, Commission of Excellence and Innovation in Health, and Medical Oncologist, Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, SA; A/Prof James Lynam, Medical Oncology Staff Specialist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Jack McDonald, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer and Blood Disorders, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Prof Shomik Sengupta, Consultant Urologist, Eastern Health and Professor of Surgery, Eastern Health Clinical School, Monash University, VIC.