Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: September 2017. | Last updated: June 2022
Bone pain is a symptom that is experienced by some patients diagnosed with bladder cancer.1,2 Bone pain is not usually caused by bladder cancer, but it can potentially be a symptom of bladder cancer that is at a more advanced stage. In most patients who are diagnosed, bladder cancer cells start to grow—and can gather together to form masses of cells called tumors—in the thin layer of cells that line the inside walls of the bladder.
Early stage or non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer is diagnosed if the tumors have not spread beyond the lining of the bladder. In more advanced forms of bladder cancer, the cancer cells may have grown into the muscles of the bladder walls (muscle-invasive bladder cancer) or they may have spread (metastasized) into other organs or parts of the body, which is called metastatic bladder cancer.
Can bladder cancer cause bone pain?
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine that is visible, which is experienced by around 80% to 90% of patients diagnosed. Around 20% to 30% of patients experience other symptoms related to urination, including
- Needing to urinate more frequently than usual
- Pain or burning before, during, or after urination
- Urgently needing to urinate despite a bladder that is not full
- Not being able to urinate, even if your bladder is full
Let your healthcare provider know if you are experiencing bone pain. While bladder cancer is not a very common reason, it is important to diagnose and treat the cause. It is especially important to tell your healthcare provider if you experience bone pain and you have noticed blood in your urine or have any other types of urinary symptoms.
How is the pain evaluated?
The symptom of bone pain refers to feelings of pain, tenderness, aching, or discomfort in the bone.1,2 To find out what may be causing bone pain, healthcare providers usually perform a physical evaluation in addition to other types of testing to help make a diagnosis. If you have bone pain as well as problems or changes related to urination, then a urine sample can be tested to check for signs of infection or other problems.
A procedure called cystoscopy can be used to examine the inside lining of the urethra (the hollow tube-shaped organ through which urine flows through the bladder and out of the body) and the bladder. It can also be used to take tissue samples for analysis to detect the possible presence of cancer cells.
Patients who receive a diagnosis of bladder cancer usually undergo further testing to find out if the bladder cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This may include imaging scans, such as MRI, CT/CAT scans, and/or x-rays. For patients with the symptom of bone pain, bone scans may be used to see if the cancer cells have spread to bones.
What are possible causes?
In some patients with metastatic bladder cancer, the bladder cancer cells may have spread to their bones, which can cause the symptom of bone pain.3 However, bone pain due to bladder cancer is relatively uncommon and the pain is more likely due to some other cause. There are multiple causes of bone pain, including
- Fracture due to injury or accident
- Other types of cancer, including leukemia
- Overuse of the bone