Signs Your Frequent Urination Could Be Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be about 83,190 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in the U.S. in the year 2024. Additionally, about 16,840 people will die from this disease.

If bladder cancer is diagnosed at its earliest stage when there are abnormal cells found only in the lining of the bladder, the five-year survival rate is 97%. However, this figure drops to 71% for cancer that is localized to the bladder and it declines even further to 39% for cancer that has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes. If the cancer has metastasized to areas distant from the bladder, only 8% of patients make it to the five-year point.

Clearly, early diagnosis is important in ensuring that you have the best possible outcome. Being aware of bladder cancer's early symptoms can help you know when to seek out further evaluation from a physician. The American Cancer Society states that some of the common early symptoms involve problems with urination, such as frequent urination. Other symptoms include pain and burning during urination, feeling an urgent need to pee even when your bladder isn't full, having problems peeing, having a weak urine stream, and having to get up to relieve yourself multiple times during the night. They also note that blood in the urine (hematuria) is often one of the first signs of bladder cancer that people will see.

What is frequent urination?

The Cleveland Clinic explains that frequent urination is when you are urinating more than eight times per day. It is also considered to be frequent urination if you are getting up more than two times each night to relieve your bladder. Also, if the number of times that you are having to go each day is bothersome to you, this could be considered as being frequent urination.

Urology of Greater Atlanta further notes that it is entirely normal to occasionally have urinary frequency. Drinking alcohol or caffeine can make you pee more. Eating spicy foods can sometimes irritate the bladder as well. Even drinking a lot of water can make you pee more often than usual. It's when you are regularly urinating frequently or excessively that you might need to be concerned. Your doctor can help you determine whether anything serious is going on that requires treatment.

How to know if frequent urination is a sign of bladder cancer

It should be noted that bladder cancer is not the only, or most likely, reason for frequent urination. Penn Medicine states that the most common causes of frequent urination include urinary tract infections, enlarged prostate (in middle-aged and older men), swelling and infection of the urethra, vaginitis, nerve-related problems, and caffeine use. Other possible explanations include anxiety, diabetes, pregnancy, and overactive bladder syndrome, just to name a few.

WebMD advises seeing a doctor about your frequent urination if it is interfering with your life or you have other symptoms such as pain, fever, vomiting, chills, increased appetite, thirst, fatigue, bloody urine, cloudy urine, or discharge from your vagina or penis.

Depending on your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may opt to run tests. If bladder cancer is suspected, these might include urinalysis/cytology to look for cancer cells, red and white blood cells, and blood in your urine (per Johns Hopkins Medicine). If any abnormalities are found or your doctor has a strong reason to suspect cancer, they might also order a biopsy.

Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network additionally explains that cystoscopy, a procedure where a doctor inserts a long, thin camera through your urethra into your bladder, is the most important diagnostic tool that is used to detect bladder cancer. They can use this camera to see if there are any growths. If they find anything, they can perform a biopsy to confirm whether it is cancerous.