Symptoms of bladder cancer can include issues that relate to passing urine, such as blood in urine and changes in the frequency of urination.

Overall, bladder cancer is more common in males than in females. About 9 in 10 bladder cancer cases occur after the age of 55, with an average age of onset of about 73.

Blood in the urine is a common early sign, which many females may mistake for other issues or doctors may misdiagnose. This can lead to later-stage or more advanced cancer.

This article reviews the symptoms that females with bladder cancer may experience. It will also explain risk factors, prevalence, and the outlook for bladder cancer.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The first sign of bladder cancer is typically blood in the urine. It may be easily visible, or a healthcare professional may only see it during an analysis of the urine under a microscope.

Females may be more likely to ignore this as a symptom of concern, believing it is a common occurrence. This can lead to a delay in diagnosis and affect the overall outlook of the cancer.

In addition to blood, other signs of bladder cancer can include:

  • frequent urination
  • increased urgency of needing to go to the bathroom
  • painful passing of urine
  • stomach pain or discomfort
  • back pain

Some people may find it difficult or impossible to urinate. Other possible symptoms as the cancer advances can include:

  • unexpected weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness or tiredness
  • bone pain
  • swollen feet

If an individual experiences any of these symptoms, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional.

Symptoms, such as blood in the urine, do not always mean a person has bladder cancer. They are symptoms of other conditions too. Speaking with a healthcare professional can help determine the exact cause of any symptoms someone may experience.

The number one risk factor for bladder cancer in females is smoking. Smoking can triple a person’s risk of developing bladder cancer.

Advanced age is another risk factor. About 9 in 10 cases occur in people over the age of 55. The average age of diagnosis is 73.

Other risk factors can include:

  • workplace exposure to certain chemicals
  • history of bladder cancer
  • genetics or living with certain genetic conditions such as Cowden disease or Lynch syndrome
  • chronic bladder infections or irritation
  • birth defects that affect the bladder
  • use of chemotherapy or radiation

Bladder cancer is not as common in females as it is in males.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the average rate of new cases of bladder cancer for females is 7.8 per 100,000 people. In males, the rate is 31.7 per 100,000 people.

Some experts indicate that there is often a delay in diagnosing bladder cancer in females, leading to diagnosis at more advanced stages. This can negatively impact a person’s outlook since early diagnosis and treatment can help increase survival rates.

One of the main reasons for the disparity in the diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer in females is their likelihood to ignore the most basic symptom of blood in the urine. Many females may ignore this symptom, believing it to be the result of menstruation or menopause.

Doctors may also misdiagnose blood in the urine of females as cystitis, urinary tract infection (UTI), or postmenopausal bleeding.

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 4,550 females in the United States will die from bladder cancer in 2023.

It is important to report any changes to the color of a person’s urine or frequency of urination to a healthcare professional.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about bladder cancer.

How long can you have bladder cancer without knowing?

A common and often first symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. A person may not see it as it may only be visible under a microscope, or they may associate it with another issue, such as postmenopausal bleeding or a urinary tract infection. This can lead to a delay in diagnosis.

How is bladder cancer usually detected?

The first sign for most people is blood in the urine. This and other risk factors may lead a healthcare professional to suspect the presence of bladder cancer. They may use tests such as urinalysis or urine culture to determine if cancer is present. They may also recommend a cystoscopy or biopsy to verify the diagnosis.

Where do you feel bladder cancer pain?

A person may feel pain or burning during urination. As the cancer advances, a person may feel pain on one side of their back.

Bladder cancer is not as common in females as it is in males.

It frequently causes blood in the urine as the first sign. Many females may ignore this due to believing it is part of menstruation or menopause. Doctors may also misdiagnose the cause of the blood due to other common causes, such as UTIs or postmenopausal bleeding.

Several risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing bladder cancer. However, a leading risk factor is smoking. People who smoke or have smoked in the past are more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who never smoked.

Due to delays in diagnosis, females may be more likely to receive a diagnosis of later-stage bladder cancer, which can negatively impact their outlook. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for an improved outlook for a person with the condition.