Is Frequent Urination a Sign of Bladder Cancer?

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

Some patients who are diagnosed with bladder cancer may have problems or changes related to urination, which are sometimes called irritative bladder symptoms.1,2 Around 20% to 30% of patients diagnosed with bladder cancer have irritative bladder symptoms, which include frequent urination, pain or burning during urination, and the urgent need to urinate despite having a bladder that is not full.

In most patients diagnosed with bladder cancer, the cancer cells start to grow in the thin layer of cells that line the inside of the bladder, covering the bladder’s muscular walls. The cancer cells can form tumors in the lining of the bladder, which can cause symptoms related to urination.

Irritative bladder symptoms

Among patients diagnosed with bladder cancer, irritative bladder symptoms related to urination are not as common as the symptom of blood in the urine. About 80% to 90% of patients diagnosed with bladder cancer have blood in the urine that is easily visible. Many of those patients do not have any symptoms other than that, especially if the bladder cancer is diagnosed at an early stage.

Identifying the cause of frequent urination

If you experience the symptom of frequent urination, let your healthcare provider know—especially if you have seen blood in your urine as well. Bladder cancer is not usually the cause of frequent urination, but it is important to find out what is causing it. If the symptom is related to bladder cancer, then having it diagnosed at an early stage tends to make treatment more effective.

What is frequent urination?

Frequent urination means that you have to urinate more often than you usually do.1,3 This symptom can result from an overactive bladder or a weak bladder. Frequent urination is a symptom that affects both men and women. When a patient needs to urinate frequently at night, the medical term is nocturia.

On average, a healthy adult generally needs to urinate around 4 to 8 times during a day. Talk with your healthcare provider if you need to urinate more often than that on a daily basis, or if you find yourself needing to urinate more often every day than you usually do.

What will your doctor do?

To find out the cause of frequent urination, your healthcare provider will probably carry out a physical exam and ask you questions about things that can cause you to urinate more frequently. For example, common causes of frequent urination include drinking more water or other beverages than usual, drinking alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, and taking certain types of medications (such as diuretics). Your healthcare provider may also take a urine sample to perform a laboratory test called urinalysis to check for signs that you may have an infection that is causing the frequent urination.

Other possible causes

The most common cause of frequent urination is a urinary tract infection (UTI).1,3 In men, frequent urination can commonly be caused by problems related to the prostate, an organ that is near the bladder. Other possible causes include:

  • Bladder stones
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Overactive bladder syndrome
  • Stroke

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