Cystoscopy is a test to look at the inside of your bladder and check for signs of cancer. Find out how you have this test.
To have the test your doctor uses a thin, flexible tube called a cystoscope.
You usually have a cystoscopy when your GP has referred you to a specialist. This is the most important test to see if there could be cancer in the lining of your bladder.
How you have it
The doctor puts a thin, flexible tube called a cystoscope into the tube where your urine comes out (your urethra).
The cystoscope has optic fibres inside it, and a light and eyepiece at one end. The doctor can see down the cystoscope to look at the pictures. These may also be shown on a TV monitor.
A cystoscopy is a test to look at the inside of your bladder. The bladder stores urine and when we empty it the urine passes from the bladder down a tube called the urethra and out of the body.
The urethra in men passes through the prostate gland and down the penis.
In women the urethra is much shorter and passes from the bladder down to an opening just in front of the vagina.
You have the test lying on your back on a couch. The doctor cleans around the opening to the bladder.
Then they put anaesthetic jelly into the tube where urine comes out. This doesn’t hurt but can be uncomfortable.
Once the anaesthetic has worked they put a long flexible tube called a cystoscope into the opening and up into the bladder.
You may find this uncomfortable and feel like you need to pass urine. The doctor puts water in through the scope to make it easier to see the bladder wall
The tube has a light and a camera on the end. This sends pictures to a monitor.
Looking at the monitor they examine your bladder. If they see any abnormal areas they take a tissue sample. This is called a biopsy.
After the test you may have some soreness when you pass urine. Drink plenty of fluids to help prevent infection. You may need to take antibiotics.
Contact the hospital if you have pain or bleeding which becomes worse or lasts longer than two days or if you have signs of infection such as a fever or needing to pass urine more often.
This test only takes a few minutes. You usually have it at a hospital as an outpatient.
You undress your lower half and may have a gown to put on. Then you lie on your back on the bed or couch.
The doctor places a sterile sheet over you. They clean the area and squeeze some anaesthetic jelly into the tube where your urine comes out (urethra). In men, this means squeezing the jelly down the penis. This doesn't hurt but can feel uncomfortable.
Once the local anaesthetic works, the doctor puts the cystoscope into your bladder. They fill your bladder with sterile water. You may feel like you need to go to the toilet.
Then the doctor moves the tube around so they can examine the whole of the inside of your bladder.
Cystoscopy for a man
Cystoscopy for a woman
After the test
You might have some discomfort when you pass urine for the first time.
The doctor or nurse may give you antibiotics to take. You should drink plenty for the next couple of days to prevent infection. It’s important to take the antibiotics as prescribed.
Most people do not have problems after having a cystoscopy but as with any medical procedure, there are possible risks. You might have mild burning or stinging when you pass urine. It may also look slightly blood stained for a day or two. Drinking plenty should help with this.
You should contact the hospital if you are still bleeding 48 hours after your test, the bleeding is getting worse or there are blood clots in your urine.
There is a small risk of infection. Symptoms can include:
- going to the toilet more often
- burning and stinging when passing urine
- high temperature
- feeling hot and cold or shivery
- cloudy or offensive smelling urine
- generally feeling unwell
If you think you have an infection, you should go to your GP. They can prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
Rarely, you may have difficulty passing urine after cystoscopy. If this happens, you may need a catheter for a short time. There is also a risk of delayed bleeding and damage to the bladder wall or urethra.
Getting your results
Waiting for test results can be a very worrying time. You can contact your specialist nurse if you are finding it hard to cope. You can also get in touch with them to ask for information if you need to. It can also help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.
Your doctor will arrange for you to go into hospital for a cystoscopy under general anaesthetic, if the test shows anything that looks abnormal. This is so they can take tissue samples (biopsies).