Tests to find cancer in the bladder
The main test to look for bladder cancer is a cystoscopy. This is an examination of the inner lining of the bladder with a cystoscope, a tube with a light and a camera on the end. Other tests can give your doctors more information about the bladder cancer. These may include an ultrasound before the cystoscopy, a biopsy taken during a cystoscopy, and a CT or MRI scan.
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An ultrasound uses soundwaves to create a picture of your organs. This scan is used to show if cancer is present and how large it is, but it can’t always find small tumours.
Your medical team will usually ask you to have a full bladder for the ultrasound. After the first scan, you will empty your bladder and the scan will be repeated.
During an ultrasound, you will uncover your abdomen and lie on a bench. A cool gel will be spread on your skin, and a device called a transducer will be moved across your abdomen. The transducer creates soundwaves that echo when they meet something solid, such as an organ or tumour. A computer turns the soundwaves into a picture. Ultrasound scans are painless and usually take 15–20 minutes.
In many cases, the next test will be a cystoscopy using a flexible cystoscope. This is done under local anaesthetic, with a gel squeezed through a thin tube into the urethra to numb the area. The cystoscope is inserted through your urethra and into the bladder.
A flexible cystoscopy usually takes only a few minutes. For a few days afterwards, you may see some blood in your urine and feel mild discomfort when urinating.
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Prof Dickon Hayne, UWA Medical School, The University of Western Australia, and Head, Urology, South Metropolitan Health Service, WA; BEAT Bladder Cancer Australia; Dr Anne Capp, Senior Staff Specialist, Radiation Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Marc Diocera, Genitourinary Nurse Consultant, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Peter Heathcote, Senior Urologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Adjunct Professor, Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre, QLD; Melissa Le Mesurier, Consumer; Dr James Lynam, Medical Oncologist Staff Specialist, Calvary Mater Newcastle and The University of Newcastle, NSW; John McDonald, Consumer; Michael Twycross, Consumer; Rosemary Watson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria.
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