To diagnose bladder cancer, your doctor will need to obtain a small piece of tissue, called a biopsy.

Your doctor obtains the biopsy by inserting a thin, lighted instrument called a cystoscope into the bladder through the urethra and taking a small amount of tissue to be examined. This procedure, called a cystoscopy, is done while you’re under general anesthesia, and you can usually go home the same day.

A pathologist looks under a microscope at the sample obtained during the cystoscopy in order to make a diagnosis. Our pathologists are highly skilled at analyzing cell and tissue samples to accurately identify bladder cancer subtypes and determine which stage of bladder cancer you have.

Surgeons sometimes also use cystoscopy as a way to treat early-stage bladder cancer, in particular for transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) confined to the inner tissues of the bladder (stages 0 and I).

During this procedure, the surgeon inserts the cystoscope through the urethra (the tube that allows urine to pass out of the body) and into the bladder to remove any tumors. Learn more about surgical options for bladder cancer.