As you age, you may find yourself paying more attention to the ways you can reduce your cancer risk—and with good reason. The earlier you detect most forms of cancer, the better your odds of a favorable outcome through treatment. That's why it's so important to contact your doctor if anything seems amiss, especially if you have a family history of cancer or other risk factors for the condition. However, not all cancer symptoms are easy to spot—and in the case of one common cancer, one of its telltale symptoms typically occurs when you're asleep. Read on to find out which cancer symptom may be taking place while you sleep at night and what to do if you think there's a problem.
If you get up frequently to pee in the night, talk to your doctor about a bladder cancer screening.
Individuals with bladder cancer often notice significant changes in their bathroom habits, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Those often include pain, discomfort, and burning during urination, the need to urinate urgently, or having a weak urine stream. Experts say that in particular, people should pay attention to whether they have to urinate more frequently, especially if they wake up at night to do so. "Bladder cancer may wake you up at night with an overwhelming need to urinate," explain experts from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). All of these symptoms are considered "irritative bladder symptoms," and they occur in up to 30 percent of patients with bladder cancer.
However, these symptoms often have other underlying causes.
Experts say if you do experience frequent waking in the night to urinate, you shouldn't panic. Frequent urination can have several other underlying causes and doesn't necessarily mean you have bladder cancer. In fact, ACS notes that these symptoms "are more likely to be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI), bladder stones, an overactive bladder, or an enlarged prostate (in men)."
However, it's still important to have your symptoms checked out by a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. In addition to bladder cancer and more benign conditions, there can be other serious underlying causes, including neurological disorders, diabetes, and more.
Blood in the urine is another telltale sign of bladder cancer.
For most individuals with bladder cancer, the earliest detected symptom is blood in the urine, or hematuria. "There may be enough blood to change the color of the urine to orange, pink, or, less often, dark red. Sometimes, the color of the urine is normal but small amounts of blood are found when a urine test (urinalysis) is done because of other symptoms or as part of a general medical check-up," explains ACS. Their experts note that during the early stages of the disease, blood in the urine is often the only symptom—meaning you should always consult with your doctor if you experience this problem.
However, just as other changes to your bathroom habits may indicate other underlying issues, hematuria can have several causes other than cancer. "More often it's caused by other things like an infection, benign (not cancer) tumors, stones in the kidney or bladder, or other benign kidney diseases," says ACS.
Bladder cancer can often be detected early.
If there is a silver lining to bladder cancer, it's that the disease can often be detected early, when it's most responsive to treatment. Finding blood in your urine can be alarming, prompting many people to seek medical attention for the surprising symptom.
However, if bladder cancer does progress unchecked, it can cause a range of serious symptoms. In these more severe cases, you may notice lower back pain on one side, an inability to urinate, fatigue, swelling in the feet, or pain in the bones, says ACS. If you experience these symptoms or any notable changes in your bathroom habits, it's time to call your doctor ASAP.