Bladder cancer tests
Bladder cancer is often detected when a person develops signs and symptoms. It is a highly treatable type of cancer when detected early. Although screening tests for bladder cancer are not conducted routinely, the following tests may be used to diagnose and learn more about bladder cancer:
- Urine tests: A urine test can help detect bladder cancer in a small number of cases. A urine routine and microscopic test may reveal the presence of blood in the urine. Further, a urine cytology test can be ordered. This test involves testing samples of urine for three consecutive days and is called three-day urine cytology test. The urine samples are examined under a microscope to look for the presence of cancerous cells.
- Cystoscopy: If urine cytology does not make the diagnosis of bladder condition clear, doctors perform a procedure known as cystoscopy. The procedure involves inserting a thin, lighted flexible tube called cystoscope into the urinary bladder through the urethral opening. The test helps the doctor to look for any suspicious growths in the bladder. Urine could also be collected from the bladder during this procedure for a urine cytology test.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound of the pelvis uses a sound probe to reveal any blockages in the kidneys or ureters that are causing the urinary symptoms. This is a painless and relatively simple procedure. It is often performed before any other imaging tests.
- Biopsy/transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT): Biopsy is a procedure that involves removing a small tissue of the suspicious part (tumor) of the bladder to examine it under a microscope. It is done when an abnormal growth is found during cystoscopy. The surgical procedure to remove the tissue for biopsy is called a transurethral bladder tumor resection or TURBT. The procedure is used to diagnose bladder cancer, identify the type of tumor and know how deeply cancer has grown into the layers of the bladder.
The doctor may order additional tests to find out if the bladder cancer has spread elsewhere in the body. These include
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: CT scan uses multiple X-rays to give detailed, cross-sectional images of bladder cancer from different angles. It is also used to check if cancer has spread to the adjacent lymph nodes and other organs. A special dye called contrast medium may be injected intravenously before the CT scan.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Like CT scans, MRI also provides detailed images of the organs, such as ovaries. An MRI uses strong magnets to produce the images. Like a CT scan, a special dye (different from that used in a CT scan) may be injected before the procedure.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) or PET-CT scan: A PET scan can also be useful if the doctor suspects that cancer has spread and wants to know where it has exactly spread. The test is not detailed as a CT scan or MRI scan but provides details of all the small areas where cancer has spread. It can be done simultaneously with a CT scan.
The doctor will discuss the results of these tests with the patient and recommend treatment options that suit them the best.