Diagnosing Bladder Cancer

Contact Information

Contact UW Carbone Cancer Center for appointment scheduling, patient referrals and more information: 

(608) 262-5223

(800) 622-8922

The UW Prostate and Genitourinary Cancer Program (UWPGCP) and the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, the state's only comprehensive cancer center, take a multidisciplinary approach to treating bladder cancer.

Diagnosing Bladder Cancer

People at high risk for bladder cancer should undergo one or more of the following procedures regularly to detect the disease at an early stage.
  • Cystoscopy: A thin tube with a camera (cystoscope) is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to view the suspicious area. The cystoscope can also be used to take a tissue sample for biopsy and to treat superficial tumors without surgery. We recommend cystoscopy be combined with other tests listed below for the most accurate diagnosis possible.

  • Imaging studies such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound or intravenous pyelogram (IVP) supplement the information provided by cystoscopy.

  • Urine-based tests use a urine sample to determine the presence of cancer. Cytology is the oldest urine test, which involves looking at the sample under a microscope for the presence of abnormal cells. There are several types of urine tests available that focus on specific bladder cancer "markers." The urologist will choose the most appropriate urine test for each patient.

  • Transurethral resection (TUR) of the bladder: A surgical procedure that is used both to diagnose bladder cancer and to remove cancerous tissue from the bladder. During TUR surgery, a cystoscope is passed into the bladder through the urethra. A tool called a resectoscope is used to remove the cancer for biopsy. For tumors that are confined to the surface of the bladder, this treatment can be curative. For tumors that are more extensive, additional treatment is required.