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Screening for bladder cancer

Men and women discussing bladder cancer

This page tells you about screening for bladder cancer. You can find information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Screening for bladder cancer

Screening means looking for early signs of a particular disease in healthy people who do not have any symptoms. Before we can carry out screening for any type of cancer, doctors must have an accurate test to use. The test must be reliable in picking up cancers that are there. And it must not give false positive results in people who do not have cancer. At the moment there is no reliable screening test for bladder cancer.

If you think you are at higher than average risk of bladder cancer, talk to your doctor. You may be able to have regular checkups.

It is very important to see your doctor if you develop any bladder symptoms, such as blood in your urine. This is the best way of finding bladder cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.

 

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What we mean by screening

Screening means looking for early signs of a particular disease in healthy people who do not have any symptoms. Screening cannot prevent cancer. It can only find it as early as possible. Before we can do screening for a particular type of cancer, we need an accurate test to use. The test must be reliable in picking up cancers that are there. And it must not give false positive results in people who do not have cancer.

 

Why there is no bladder cancer screening programme

At the moment there is no reliable screening test for bladder cancer. Testing for blood in the urine would not be a useful screening test for the general population. Small amounts of blood in urine can be caused by other conditions apart from cancer (such as a urine infection or kidney problems).

Doctors around the world looked into whether testing for blood in the urine would be a reliable test for people at a higher risk of bladder cancer. This involves dipping a testing stick into a fresh sample of your urine. The National Screening Committee looked at the results of a number of studies. Their opinion was that testing the urine for blood is not a useful test for this group of people at the moment. 

Doctors are also looking at urine tests to diagnose bladder cancer, such as the NMP22 test and the MCM5 test. These are currently being tested as ways of improving the diagnosis of bladder cancer, rather than as screening tests. There is information about this research in the bladder cancer research section.

 

If you are at high risk

If you think you are at a high risk of developing bladder cancer, talk to your doctor. You may be able to have regular check ups. But it is very important to see your doctor if you develop any bladder symptoms, whether you think you are at high risk or not. This is the best way of finding bladder cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable. The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine (haematuria).

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Updated: 25 September 2013