Bladder Infection vs. Bladder Cancer: How to Know Which is Which

Bladder infections and bladder cancer have a lot in common. Bladder infections are the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI). Bladder cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Estimates suggest more than 80,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year.

A bladder infection is usually more annoying than serious, unless it goes untreated and causes complications. Bladder cancer, on the other hand, can be very serious and may even require surgery. Symptoms of a bladder infection can be very similar to those of bladder cancer, making it difficult to know which one you’re dealing with.

Dr. Matthew Kincade with Mercy Clinic Urology breaks down the signs of infection versus cancer:

Risk factors for bladder infection include:

  • Gender (bladder infections are more common in women)
  • Age (lack of estrogen during menopause causes changes in the urinary tract that can lead to infection)
  • Kidney stones or an enlarged prostate
  • Catheter use
  • Diabetes or another immune disorder

Risk factors for bladder cancer include:

  • Age (it typically occurs in people over 55)
  • Gender (bladder cancer is far more common in men)
  • A history of tobacco use (current or past tobacco use, along with blood in your urine is a worrisome combination)
  • Exposure to certain industrial dyes or chemicals
  • Exposure to chemotherapy during previous cancer treatment
  • A history of chronic bladder infections, bladder stones or prolonged use of indwelling catheter

If you notice changes in your urination habits or see blood in your urine (which is not normal), it’s time to see your doctor. Even if you suspect it’s just an infection, it’s important to seek treatment. Infection may spread from the bladder to one or both kidneys. When bacteria attack the kidneys, it can cause permanent kidney damage.

Talk to your Mercy urologist who will carefully review your symptoms and determine a treatment plan that works for you.

Written by Matthew Kincade, MD

Matthew Kincade, MD, is a urologist at Mercy Clinic Urology – S. Fremont. 
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