Bladder cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the bladder. People often receive a diagnosis in its early stages when healthcare professionals can treat it successfully.

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For many women, a diagnosis of badder cancer can sometimes be delayed. This can happen because blood in urine is a common early sign of bladder cancer, but women who experience menstrual bleeding or menopause may nt recognize this as a potential symptom of bladder cancer.

Read on for more information about bladder cancer and how it affects women specifically.

Bladder cancer develops when cells within the bladder mutate. These mutations happen within cell DNA. DNA changes cause cells to multiply rapidly and form tumors. Over time, these cells can spread throughout the body.

Multiple factors can cause bladder cancer. Men typically have a higher risk of bladder cancer. Still, women often have more advanced tumors when they receive their diagnosis. Common risk factors for bladder cancer include:

  • Smoking: Smoking is linked to multiple types of cancer, including bladder cancer. It can happen because your kidneys filter the toxins in cigarettes and then pass them through your bladder in your urine. Over time, this can lead to cancer.
  • Exposure to industrial chemicals: Certain chemicals, including benzidine and dyes used in specific industries, are linked to a higher risk of bladder cancer. Today, companies have regulations in place to protect workers from many of these chemicals.
  • Recurrent bladder or urinary tract infections: Frequent infections of your bladder and urinary tract are linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
  • Previous chemotherapy or radiation treatments to the pelvic area: Treatment for previous cancers in the pelvic area, such as bowel cancer, can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Chronic bladder stones: Bladder stones have a link to a higher risk of bladder cancer.
  • Long-term use of an indwelling catheter: Indwelling catheter use can increase the risk of infections and bladder cancer.

Learn more about bladder cancer.

Language matters

You’ll notice we use the binary terms male, female, men, and women in this article. While we realize these terms may not match your gender experience, these are the terms used by the researchers whose data was cited. We try to be as specific as possible when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data for or may not have had participants who are transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

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The most common sign of bladder cancer for people of any gender is blood in urine. It can cause urine that looks brown, red, orange, or pink colored. Other common signs of bladder cancer can include:

Women can sometimes miss the symptoms of bladder cancer. They can mistake blood in the urine for bleeding linked to menstruation, spotting, or menopausal symptoms.

Also, more common and mild conditions, such as bladder infections, can cause similar symptoms to bladder cancer. If you have bloody, frequent, and painful urination that isn’t relieved with antibiotics, it’s important to let your doctor know.

As bladder cancer spreads, it can lead to additional symptoms. Symptoms of advanced bladder cancer can include:

Bladder cancer can be highly treatable when diagnosed early. But it also has the highest recurrence rate of any cancer. It’s estimated that between 50% and 80% of all bladder cancers return.

Also, the 5-year survival rate for women is lower than‌ the 5-year survival rate for men, likely because women typically receive their diagnosis at a later stage.

Data suggests that women have a 5-year relative survival rate of 74.6%, while men have a 5-year relative survival rate of 79.5%. Relative survival rates report data of people with a type of cancer compared to individuals who don’t have cancer.

What is the most common cause of bladder cancer?

Smoking is the most common risk factor linked to bladder cancer.

What is life expectancy with bladder cancer?

The exact life expectancy with bladder cancer depends on factors such as your stage at diagnosis, overall health, genetics, and response treatment. However, the 5-year relative survival rate for individuals with bladder cancer is 78.4%.

What is the number one symptom of bladder cancer?

Blood in urine is the most frequently seen symptom of bladder cancer. It can cause urine that is red, orange, pink, or brown in color.

What organ does bladder cancer spread to first?

Bladder cancer spreads into the bladder wall and then into the surrounding tissues and nearby lymph nodes. As it continues to spread, it can reach distant organs such as the lungs.

Men most often receive a bladder cancer diagnosis. However, tumors are often larger when they are first diagnosed in women. This can happen because early symptoms of bladder cancer, such as blood in urine, can be mistaken for menstrual bleeding or bladder infections.

Early treatment can help improve survival odds, so it’s always a good idea to report any unusual symptoms to a doctor as soon as you can.