Cancer Symptom Spotlight: A Frequent Urge to Pee

When a Constant Urge to Pee May be a Sign of Something More

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Having a frequent urge to pee, even when you just finished paying a visit to the bathroom, is medically referred to as frequent urination.

Most people are able to "hold it in" and the average person empties their bladder anywhere from 4 to 8 times a day. If you have to go to the bathroom more than 8 times a day, it may mean that you are drinking too much fluids or it may be an indication of a bigger medical problem.

Diagnosing Frequent Urination

A frequent urge to pee is usually a symptom of many different conditions, it can also be a side effect to certain conditions. Your doctor will assess other symptoms that you may be feeling to better pinpoint the cause. After performing a physical exam, your doctor may ask you the following questions:

  • Are you on any medications?
  • Do you have the problem only during the day or also at night?
  • Are you drinking more fluids than normal for you?
  • Is your pee any darker or lighter than normal?
  • Do you drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages?
  • Are you experiencing any other symptoms?

Additional Symptoms and Causes

Additional symptoms such as fever, back pain, vomiting, chills, increased appetite or thirst, fatigue, bloody or cloudy urine, or a discharge from the penis or vagina should all be taken very seriously. The following is a list of possible causes (and additional symptoms) of frequent urination, there may also be other causes and conditions not listed below:

  • Bladder or Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Any fever, pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen, may indicate a UTI. The presence of small amounts of blood in the urine may also be an indication.
  • Using Diuretics. Some medications used to treat high blood pressure or fluid build up can flush excess fluid from the body at a quicker rate, causing frequent urination.
  • Overactive Bladder. Having to pee frequently is not a symptom of a larger problem, it is the problem. Involuntary bladder contractions make you feel like you have to go immediately, even if you just went. You may be waking up once or more during the night to use the bathroom.
  • Diabetes. Passing an abnormally large amount of urine is often an early symptom of both type I and type II diabetes (excessive peeing happens in order for the body to try and rid itself of unused glucose).
  • Ovarian Cancer. If you have the urge to urinate and do not actually go or you are urinating more often than usual, even when you haven't increased your fluid intake, then you should definitely be evaluated by a doctor (who will likely order a urinalysis to check for abnormalities).
  • Pregnancy. The uterus can place pressure on the bladder even in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, causing a frequent need to urinate.
  • Prostate Issues. An enlarged prostate can block the flow of urine since it may press against the urethra (the tube that carries pee out of the body). This can cause the bladder to contract even when it contains small amounts of urine, making you feel like you constantly have to pee.
  • Intestitial Cystitis. Pain during sexual intercourse or pain in the bladder or pelvic region may accompany a persistent, frequent need to pee. Severe interstitial cystitis may have you urinating as many as 60 times a day.
  • Stroke. Damage to nerves that supply the bladder can lead to problems with bladder function, including frequent and sudden urges to urinate.
  • Chemotherapy. Having a strong urge to pee is a side effect of chemo. You may also have urine that is cloudy or a different color (such as orange, red, green, or dark yellow), accompanied by a strong smell. Sometimes having trouble urinating is another side effect.
  • Bladder Cancer. The symptoms for bladder cancer are very much like that of a UTI. Blood or blood clots in the urine along with pain or burning during urination and a feeling that you need to urinate, but not being able to pass urine and lower back pain on one side of the body are all symptoms of bladder cancer.

As you can see, some of the added symptoms to frequent urination can overlap. This is why it is important to see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. If having to pee frequently interferes with your life or is accompanied by any of the other symptoms listed above, do not hesitate to make an appointment to see your doctor.

Treatment for Frequent Urination

Addressing the underlying problem that is causing frequent urination is the usual method of treating frequent urination. This means that for conditions such as diabetes, keeping blood sugar levels under control is the treatment that would normally be advised by doctors. For an overactive bladder, treatment may include behavioral therapies, such as bladder retraining, diet modification, monitoring of fluid intake and kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles around the bladder and urethra. Other forms of treatment may include medication, injections, lifestyle changes and/or surgery.


American Cancer Society. Managing Cancer Side Effects—Frequent Urination. Accessed Feb 4th, 2016

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Frequent or urgent urination. Accessed Feb 4th, 2016

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