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Bladder Cancer Awareness

What is bladder cancer?


Bladder cancer is when abnormal cells in the bladder lining start to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. Your bladder is a hollow organ in the lower part of your tummy (abdomen) called the pelvis.   The bladder collects and stores your wee (urine). 


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.

Diagnosis of bladder cancer

If you have any symptoms you should see your GP. They can test your pee (urine) for blood and send it to a lab to check for a urine infection (UTI). They may also send the pee away to be tested for cancer cells.

They may examine you internally. This is because the bladder is close to the bowel, and the prostate or womb. The doctor inserts a gloved finger into the back passage (rectum) or vagina. This is called an internal examination. They will feel to see if there are any obvious changes.

If your GP thinks you may have cancer or is not sure what is causing your symptoms, they will refer you to a urologist. This is a doctor who treats bladder and kidney problems. Or you may see a nurse called a urology nurse specialist. If tests or symptoms suggest you could have bladder cancer, your GP will refer you urgently. This means you should get a specialist appointment as soon as possible.

Most people see the nurse or doctor at a haematuria clinic or at a hospital’s urology department. The doctor or nurse may test your pee and give you an internal examination again. They will arrange for you to have further tests if they think you need them. You usually have most of the tests on the same day.

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Further information can be found at the following links:

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