Find out what to expect when you see your GP, and how to get the most out of your appointment.
When to see your GP
See your doctor if you:
- notice blood in your urine
- need to pass urine very often
- need to pass urine very suddenly
- have pain when passing urine
Your symptoms are unlikely to be from bladder cancer. But you won't be wasting your doctor's time. The earlier a cancer is picked up, the more likely it is to be treated successfully.
Try not to be embarrassed. What you tell your GP is confidential. Doctors are used to discussing intimate problems and will try to put you at ease.
Getting the most out of your GP appointment
When you see the doctor it can be difficult to remember everything you want to say. These tips will help you get the most out of your appointment.
- Write down your symptoms including when they started, when they happen and how often you have them.
- Write down if anything makes them worse or better.
- Tell your GP if you are worried about cancer in particular.
- Tell them if you have any family history of cancer.
- Take a friend or relative along for support - they could also ask questions and help you remember what the GP says.
- Ask the GP to explain anything you don’t understand.
- Ask the GP to write things down for you if you think it might help.
What happens during your GP appointment
Your doctor needs to build up a picture of what's going on. So they will ask you some questions. These include:
- what symptoms you have
- when you get them
- whether anything makes them better or worse
They will ask you about your general health and any other medical conditions you have. During the appointment your doctor may want to examine you.
Depending on your symptoms your doctor might:
- be able to reassure you
- refer you to the hospital either for tests or to see a specialist
Ask your GP to explain if they don’t think you need a referral or any tests. They might ask you to come back in a week or two if your symptoms continue. Go back if they change or get worse.
Tests your GP might do
You may have to give a urine sample to be sent away for testing. This is to see whether your symptoms could be due to a urine infection. If you have a bladder cancer the urine may contain some cancer cells.
Your GP may want to examine you internally. This is because the bladder is very close to the bowel, the prostate in men, and the womb in women.
Your doctor puts a gloved finger into your rectum (back passage) or vagina to see if everything feels normal. They will refer you to a specialist (called a urologist) at a hospital if they think there’s any chance your symptoms could be due to a cancer.
Questions you might want to ask your GP
- Do I need to see a specialist? Is it urgent?
- When will I see them?
- Will I find out about my appointments by post or telephone?
- Do I need tests? What will they involve?
- How long should I expect to wait?
- Where can I find out more about tests?
- Do I have to do anything in preparation for this test?
- When will I get the results and who will tell me?
Your GP might not be able to answer all of your questions. They will tell you what they can at this point. Not knowing is difficult to cope with and can make you anxious.
If they don't think you need any tests or a referral
- Can you explain to me why I don’t need to have tests or see a specialist?
- Is there anything I can do to help myself?
- Do I need to see you again?
- Who do I contact if my symptoms continue or get worse, especially during the night or at weekends?
What happens next
Make sure you know what happens next. Make another appointment if your symptoms don’t clear up, or if they change or get worse.
How to find a GP
If you don’t have a GP, you can find a doctor’s surgery in your local area by going to:
Making a GP appointment
You can book an appointment online at most GP surgeries. Or you can telephone them or go in person. You don’t have to tell the receptionist what you want to see the doctor for. Tell them if you would prefer to see a male or female doctor.
Try different times of the day if it's difficult to get through by phone. Your surgery might have a clinic you can turn up to and wait to see a doctor. You might have to wait a long time but you’ll see a doctor that day.
If it’s difficult to get to the surgery, check whether your practice has telephone appointments with a doctor or nurse practitioner. They’ll tell you if you need to go in to see them at the surgery.
Accept a booked appointment, even if you think it’s a long time to wait. You could ask about cancellations if you are able to get to the practice at short notice.
During the appointment your doctor may want to examine you. If you would rather see a male or a female doctor it is worth asking when you book the appointment.