Bladder Cancer and Dysuria: Pain or Burning During Urination

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

Around 20% to 30% of patients diagnosed with bladder cancer experience problems or changes related to urination.1,2 These symptoms are called irritative bladder symptoms, and they include frequent urination, the inability to urinate despite a full bladder, and the urgent need to urinate despite the bladder not being full. Patients diagnosed with bladder cancer sometimes have one or more of these symptoms, while other patients do not have any of them.

Pain or burning during urination is called dysuria

Dysuria is the medical term for the symptom of pain or burning during urination. While some patients diagnosed with bladder cancer experience this symptom, irritative bladder symptoms are not as common as the symptom of blood that is easily visible in the urine. Between 80% and 90% of patients with bladder cancer experience the symptom of blood in the urine without pain or burning during urination.

Talk to your doctor about these symptoms

Bladder cancer cells began to grow in the lining of the bladder in most patients who are diagnosed. Irritative bladder symptoms like pain or burning during urination can be caused by cancer cells that have gathered together to form tumors in the bladder lining. Talk with your healthcare provider if you experience pain or burning when you urinate, especially if you have also noticed any blood in your urine. Bladder cancer is not a common cause of pain or burning during urination, but if it is the cause then it is important to detect the cancer as early as possible.

Finding the cause

Painful urination is a symptom that can affect men and women of any age.3 However, it is more common among women and among patients who have any type of bladder disease.

The pain during urination can feel like burning, stinging, or itching. The painful feeling can occur before, during, or after urinating. Men may experience pain inside the penis before or after urination. A woman may experience pain inside her body or on the skin outside of the vaginal area. In some patients, the pain can continue for a time after urination is finished.

What will your doctor do?

If you are experiencing pain while urinating, your healthcare provider will probably perform a physical examination and ask you to provide a urine sample for a laboratory test called urinalysis. The results of the urinalysis will help your healthcare provider to find out if the pain is being caused by an infection or by some other cause. Depending upon the results of the urinalysis test, your healthcare provider may need to carry out more tests to learn more about what is causing the pain during urination.

What else can cause painful or burning urination?

Pain or burning during urination can have many different causes.2,3 It is more commonly a symptom of something other than bladder cancer, as most patients diagnosed with bladder cancer do not have this symptom, especially if the bladder cancer is at an early stage.

A common cause of painful urination is a urinary tract infection, in both women and men. Women tend to get urinary tract infections more often than men, which is why the symptom is more common among women. Both men and women can experience pain during urination due to:

  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Certain types of medications
  • Cancer treatments in the area around the bladder, such as radiation therapy, or chemotherapy

In women, vaginal infections can also cause pain during urination. If the pain is on the skin outside of the vaginal area, then the pain might be due to inflammation or irritation of the skin. In men, problems related to the prostate (such as enlarged prostate) commonly cause pain or burning during urination.

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