woman with pelvic pain

You and Your Bladder

What's normal and what's not when it comes to your bladder


From the Desk of Beth Battaglino, RN, CEO, HealthyWomen

It's an undeniable fact. No one knows your body like you do. And when something doesn't feel quite right, it's important that you pay attention, speak up, and seek answers.

Shirley Norris learned this lesson when she first noticed bright red blood in her urine in 2014. She'd had a hysterectomy, so she knew it couldn't be her period. She saw a urologist for the next couple of years as she struggled with constantly recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs).

"Finally, in August of 2016, I told my doctor I wanted a second opinion," Norris told HealthyWomen. "Within a few seconds of turning the camera on to start the procedure, the doctor stopped … I looked at the screen and saw what looked like a big piece of broccoli inside my bladder. "What's that?" I asked. 'Well, it's not good,' the doctor said. I had bladder cancer."

It's not unusual for women to get an occasional UTI, but they usually go away with treatment. Other women struggle with UTIs for years and have little success getting rid of them. Although it's unlikely for recurring bladder infections to be something as serious as bladder cancer, it's always good to ask questions, as Shirley did, so you can get answers.

Commonly referred to as "bladder cancer," urothelial bladder cancer (UBC) is cancer of the lining of the urinary system. Although UBC is about four times more common in men than in women, women generally have a worse prognosis. The key to a high survival rate among all people, however, is early detection. Diagnosis can often be delayed in women because UBC can be mistaken for common UTIs or postmenopausal bleeding.

That's why it's critical that you understand what's normal and what's not when it comes to your bladder. What should you look out for? What are the signs of trouble?

In our bladder health education program, we help you understand signs and symptoms, your UBC risk factors, and how to talk to your healthcare provider about any bladder symptoms you may be experiencing. And never forget — you are your own best advocate.

In good health,
Beth Battaglino

This resource was created with support from Astellas.

Urothelial Cancer Resource List

Urothelial bladder cancer develops when cancer cells begin to grow in the urinary bladder and is most found in older adults, with 9 out of 10 being over the age of 55 and the average age at the time of diagnosis being 73 years old. In 2020, there were about 81,400 new cases of bladder cancer (about 62,100 in men and about 19,300 in women), therefore it is important to stay informed on the risks, signs, symptoms, and other factors associated with this cancer. For more information, please contact your provider and explore the additional resources below.

HealthyWomen Resources

Additional Resources