Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Tests and procedures used to diagnose bladder cancer may include:

  • Cystoscopy. During cystoscopy, your doctor inserts a narrow tube (cystoscope) through your urethra. The cystoscope has a lens and fiber-optic lighting system, allowing your doctor to see the inside of your urethra and bladder. You usually receive a local anesthetic during cystoscopy to help make you comfortable.
  • Biopsy. During cystoscopy, your doctor may pass a special tool through the scope and into your bladder in order to collect a cell sample (biopsy) for testing. This procedure is sometimes called transurethral resection (TUR). TUR can also be used to treat bladder cancer. TUR is usually performed under general anesthesia.
  • Urine cytology. A sample of your urine is analyzed under a microscope to check for cancer cells in a procedure called urine cytology.
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests allow your doctor to examine the structures of your urinary tract. Tests to highlight the urinary tract sometimes use a dye, which is injected into a vein before the procedure. An intravenous pyelogram is a type of X-ray imaging test that uses a dye to highlight your kidneys, ureters and bladder. A computerized tomography (CT) scan is a type of X-ray test that allows your doctor to better see your urinary tract and the surrounding tissues.

Staging bladder cancer

Once it's confirmed that you have bladder cancer, your doctor may order additional tests to determine the extent (stage) of the cancer. Staging tests may include:

  • CT scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Bone scan
  • Chest X-ray

Bladder cancer stages

The stages of bladder cancer are:

  • Stage I. Cancer at this stage occurs in the bladder's inner lining but hasn't invaded the muscular bladder wall.
  • Stage II. At this stage, cancer has invaded the bladder wall but is still confined to the bladder.
  • Stage III. The cancer cells have spread through the bladder wall to surrounding tissue. They may also have spread to the prostate in men or the uterus or vagina in women.
  • Stage IV. By this stage, cancer cells may have spread to the lymph nodes and other organs, such as your lungs, bones or liver.
Jun. 19, 2012

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