A urologist explains frequent urination and bladder cancer.

Feeling of having to urinate, but nothing comes out, can be sign of bladder cancer, though urinary urgency as a symptom of this disease is relatively rare.

A frequent feeling of having to urinate can have other causes. When you actually urinate a lot, this isn’t the same as merely feeling the urge, that unpleasant, annoying pressure.

And despite attempting to void, there is no urine output, and the feeling of urgency persists.

“There are a myriad of causes for constant urinary urgency,” says David H.C. King, MD, Medical Director, Urology Services, El Camino Hospital Los Gatos. These include a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Women and the Urge to Urinate

“In women, the most common causes are having a UTI or a condition called overactive bladder (OAB),” says Dr. King.

“Interstitial cystitis (IC), which can be associated with bladder pain, can also cause urinary urgency.”

Men and the Urge to Urinate

“In men, the most common causes relate to consequences of having benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH).

“In both men and women, very acute onset of urinary urgency can be associated with bladder cancer.”

Bladder Cancer Facts

  • In 2009 there were nearly 71,000 diagnosed cases of bladder cancer in America
  • Over 14,000 deaths (not from those 71,000 cases, but that statistic includes people diagnosed in previous years).


Symptoms: The hallmark symptom is blood in the urine. However, if you notice that it’s reddish, don’t panic too soon, because the red color can have other causes, including consumption of beets and red licorice.

The next symptom is frequent urge to urinate, which as mentioned at the beginning of this article, can be described as simply feeling that urge, but no urine comes out.

However, another symptom is actually producing a lot of urine throughout the day (this can also be a sign of diabetes or drinking a lot of fluids, as well as a side effect from some medications).

Risk factors: Over 50 percent of cases are linked to cigarette smoking.

Plus, recurring UTIs, high saturated fat diet; being male; family history; secondhand smoke; age; Caucasian race; and external beam radiation.

Workplace exposure to toxins are also a risk factor, and the following occupations have such exposure: hairdressers, machinists, printers, truck drivers, painters, and rubber/chemical/textile/leather/metal workers.

Does wheelchair confinement increase the risk of bladder cancer?

“Wheelchair confinement itself does not increase the risk of bladder cancer,” says Dr. King.

“However, some consequences of wheelchair confinement such as requiring a chronic catheter for bladder drainage or recurrent UTIs can cause a rare type of bladder cancer called squamous cell carcinoma of the bladder.

“The more common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in urine rather than pain.”

With 20+ years in general urology, Dr. King specializes in prostate disorders, kidney stones and urinary problems in men and women.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, health and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of feature articles for a variety of print magazines and websites. She is also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/cliplab
Sources:  Cancer.gov     Urologychannel.com