Can Bladder Cancer Cause Decreased Appetite and Weight Loss?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: September 2017.

Bladder cancer cells usually start to grow in the thin layer of cells that line the inside of the bladder, called the urothelium, where they can gather together and form masses of cells called tumors.1,2 The most common symptom of bladder cancer—experienced by around 80% to 90% of patients diagnosed—is blood in the urine that is easily visible. Early stage or non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer is diagnosed if the tumors have not spread beyond the lining of the bladder walls. Bladder cancer that is more advanced may start to grow into the muscles that make up the walls of the bladder, which is called muscle-invasive bladder cancer, or it may spread to other organs or parts of the body, which is called metastatic bladder cancer.

Can bladder cancer cause decreased appetite and weight loss?

The symptoms of decreased appetite and weight loss are more common among patients who are diagnosed with advanced or metastatic bladder cancer than it is in patients with bladder cancer diagnosed at an early stage.

If you experience the symptoms of decreased appetite and weight loss, talk with your healthcare provider so you can work together to diagnose and treat the cause. This is particularly important if you have seen blood in your urine or if you have experienced other problems or changes related to urination that can be caused by bladder cancer, such as:

  • Urinating more frequently than usual
  • Feeling pain or burning before, during, or after urination
  • Needing to urinate urgently even though your bladder is not full
  • Being unable to urinate even when your bladder is full

Testing to determine the cause

If you have symptoms of decreased appetite and weight loss, then your health care provider will perform a physical examination and may carry out other tests to find out what is causing the symptoms.1,2 If you also have problems or changes related to urination, then laboratory tests may be used on a sample of your urine to check for signs of infection or other issues. Cystoscopy is a procedure that may be used to examine the inside of the bladder and the urethra— the tube-like organ that connects to the bladder and allows urine to be excreted— and can also be used to take tissue samples for further testing.

Further imaging tests

If the results show the presence of bladder cancer cells, then further testing may be required to find out if the cancer has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body. These may include imaging studies (CT/CAT scans or MRIs), x-rays, and/or bone scans.

How does bladder cancer contribute to appetite changes?

Decreased appetite and weight loss can be caused by advanced bladder cancer that has spread to other organs or parts of the body—such as the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, or kidney—and are affecting the way that they function.3,4 Cancer cells can also use up nutrients that are needed for the growth and function of healthy cells. Decreased appetite and weight loss are also common side effects of bladder cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and biological therapies.

Other possible causes

In most cases, however, decreased appetite and weight loss have causes other than bladder cancer. In fact, they can be symptoms of many different health conditions, including mental health issues. Your healthcare provider will need to do a full evaluation of all of your symptoms in order to understand more about what may be causing them.

Would you like to talk to others in the bladder cancer community about side effects and symptoms? Reach out in our forums.

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