Although bladder cancer is less common in women than in men, it’s still being diagnosed in and killing American women.

The American Cancer Society estimates that almost 20,000 women will be diagnosed with bladder cancer and that almost 5,000 women will die from bladder cancer in 2020. Thankfully, both new diagnoses of and deaths from bladder cancer have decreased in recent years.

If you know the symptoms of bladder cancer, you can be proactive about your health. These are the five early signs to watch for.

1. Hematuria 

The most common early sign of bladder cancer is hematuria, or blood in the urine. Hematuria is often overlooked because it’s usually painless and weeks or months can pass between occurrences. Many women think hematuria is menstruation or menopause and ignore it. Anyone with hematuria (male or female) should make an appointment to see a urologist as soon as possible.

2. Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of bladder cancer and a urinary tract infection (UTI)  are the same, and bladder cancer can be mistaken for a UTI. Symptoms include increased frequency of urination, increased urgency of urination, pain during urination, and urinary incontinence. If you’re experiencing urinary problems (feeling like you have to go all the time, feeling like you have to go but can’t, or having a hard time emptying your bladder) or UTI symptoms that don’t go away with antibiotics, talk to your urologist.

3. Pain without Cause

Pain in the flank, abdomen, or pelvis is often associated with bladder cancer. If bladder cancer has spread, patients can also feel pain in their bones. If you have pain in any of these areas, tell you doctor, especially if you also have spotting or UTI-like symptoms.

4. Loss of Appetite

Decreased appetite is a common cancer symptom. If bladder cancer has grown or spread, patients may experience weight loss, exhaustion, and weakness. There are many things that can cause a loss of appetite. Talk to your doctor if the loss of appetite persists.

5. Smoking

The most important risk factor for bladder cancer is smoking. People who smoke are at least three times as likely to get bladder cancer as people who don’t smoke. Smoking impacts your urologic health in many ways, and smoking is the biggest risk factor for bladder cancer.

It’s common for bladder cancer to go undiagnosed. Women may attribute their symptoms to other factors, like a UTI or menstruation. Bladder cancer can go undiagnosed until it’s spread and harder to treat. Bladder cancer is easier to treat if found early. If you have any of these symptoms and want to talk to a urologist, schedule an appointment today.