Bladder Cancer: Diagnosis

Doctors may conduct the following tests for bladder cancer:

Urine Cytology A patient’s urine sample is examined under a microscope to check for any cancerous or precancerous cells. The physician may also order a urine culture to rule out an infection, which can cause similar symptoms to bladder cancer.

Cystoscopy (biopsy) Urologists place a cystoscope, a slender tube holding a lens or camera into the bladder through the urethra. This instrument allows them check the bladder and urethra for signs of cancer and to take a tissue biopsy to examine under a microscope. Cystoscopes are small and flexible with miniature cameras at the end. This newer technology gives the physician a better picture of what’s going on inside the bladder and is comfortable for the patient.

Small biopsies can be performed in the office but deep biopsies require anesthesia for which the patient often needs to be admitted to the hospital.

Intravenous Urography In this painless procedure, a dye is injected into the patient’s bloodstream. This dye travels to the kidneys, ureters, and bladder and more clearly outlines these organs on an x-ray. Physicians are then able to evaluate the urinary funnel system from the kidneys to the bladder and determine where blood in the urine originates.

CT (Computerized Tomography) Scan 
Computerized tomography (CT) creates a three-dimensional image of the body using a series of cross-section of images. A scan of the abdomen and pelvis can show if the urinary funnel system is normal, and if cancer is present, how far it has spread outside the bladder.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Scan The MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create a detailed image of the abdomen and pelvis. This test can show if the urinary funnel system is normal and if cancer is present, how far it has spread outside the bladder. MRI is preferred over CT scanning for some patients with reduced kidney function.

Ultrasound This procedure uses sound waves to determine if there are polyps within the bladder. A polyp is a non-invasive tumor that may be benign or malignant (cancerous).