More About Bladder Cancer Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.

Bladder Cancer Diagnosis

Urologic surgeon Machele Donat at a table with other physicians

Before you start any treatment, it’s vital that your doctor has a clear and complete understanding of what’s causing your symptoms. When making a diagnosis, our experts take the time to learn about your medical history and understand your overall health. We conduct a thorough diagnostic examination and tests that may include:

Cystoscopy and Transurethral Resection

A cystoscopy is a procedure in which a small tube with a camera is inserted into the urethra (the duct through which urine leaves the body) and slowly moved into the bladder. This allows the doctor to examine the lining of the bladder and take a sample (biopsy). A cystoscopy and transurethral resection or biopsy — removal of the sample through the urethra — is typically done using anesthesia. People who have a cystoscopy can usually go home the same day.

Urine Cytology

A urine sample called urine cytology can be checked for cancer cells.

Imaging of the Urinary Tract

Various imaging tests can be used to examine the urinary tract. These may include:

  • CT scans, which obtain cross-sectional pictures of the body and can help doctors
    determine if the cancer cells are only in the bladder or if they have spread to other areas
     
  • MRI, which can help doctors see if the cancer has invaded the muscle in the bladder wall and, if so, how deeply
     
  • PET scans, which take images that help doctors tell apart active and dormant tissue to help determine whether it’s normal or cancerous

These imaging tests often involve contrast dye that is injected into your hand or arm. The dye flows into your bladder to identify areas that might be cancerous.

Genetic Analysis of Bladder Tumors

For people with advanced bladder cancer that has spread, we use a test called MSK-IMPACT™. It can look for genetic mutations and other changes in a tumor. This test provides essential information that can guide treatment choices and, in some cases, identify candidates for a clinical trial. It can also spare people from treatments that are not likely to be effective. MSK-IMPACT was developed by MSK pathologists and researchers. It has been used to analyze the tumors of MSK patients with advanced cancer since January 2014. It was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration in November 2017.