Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, and medical and family history. The abdominal, pelvic, vaginal, and/or rectal areas will be carefully examined. Your doctor may recommend different tests in order to identify tumors and confirm diagnosis.
If you are having urinary symptoms, your doctor may conduct certain tests to identify abnormalities. These may include:
Urine tests check for the presence of blood, infection, or other abnormal cells in the urine. They may help identify or eliminate noncancerous causes of symptoms.
Cells found in the urine can also be examined to look for the presence of abnormal or cancerous cells. Cell testing (called cytology) will also help determine if the abnormal cells are from the bladder or other areas of the urinary tract, like the kidneys.
Blood tests may identify markers in the blood. For example, tumor markers or specific blood proteins may be elevated in the presence of cancer.
A bladder biopsy is done during cystoscopy. Cystoscopy involves passing a small scope through the urethra and into the bladder. Contrast material may be used to highlight cancer cells. During a biopsy, suspicious tissue is removed so it can be examined under a microscope. This is the only way to confirm a diagnosis.
If bladder cancer is confirmed, results from completed tests and new tests will help determine the stage of cancer. Staging is used to identify characteristics of the tumor that will help determine the prognosis and treatment plan. Factors that play a role in staging include how far the original tumor has spread, whether lymph nodes are involved, if cancer has spread to other tissue, and microscopic cellular details.
Bladder cancer is staged from 0-IV.
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Bladder cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115106/Bladder-cancer. Updated May 6, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Bladder cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/genitourinary-cancer/bladder-cancer. Updated November 2013. Accessed June 29, 2015.
General information about bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/bladder/patient/bladder-treatment-pdq. Updated May 29, 2015. Accessed June 29, 2015.
Stages of bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/bladder/patient/bladder-treatment-pdq#section/_109. Updated May 29, 2015. Accessed June 29, 2015.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD