The great majority of bladder cancers are diagnosed at an early stage — when bladder cancer is highly treatable. However, even early-stage bladder cancer is likely to recur. For this reason, bladder cancer survivors often undergo follow-up tests to look for bladder cancer recurrence for years after treatment.
Diagnosing bladder cancer
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 make you more comfortable.
- Biopsy. During cystoscopy, your doctor may pass a special tool through your urethra and into your bladder in order to collect a small cell sample (biopsy) for testing. This procedure is sometimes called transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT). TURBT can also be used to treat bladder cancer. TURBT 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. You may receive a dye, which can be injected into a vein. 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.
Once it's confirmed that you have bladder cancer, your doctor may order additional tests to determine the extent, or stage, of the cancer. Staging tests may include:
- CT scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Bone scan
- Chest X-ray
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.
- For more information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001517/ or