Referral to a bladder cancer specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to bladder cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral. A bladder cancer specialist is called a urologist.

You will see a urologist or have tests as soon as possible. Due to COVID-19, you may have to wait longer. Ask your GP when this is likely to be.

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better. Or if they respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

UK referral guidelines

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral. Your GP will use these guidelines as well as their own experience and judgement.

The referral guidelines vary slightly between the different UK nations. The following is a summary.

You should have an urgent referral if you are:

  • 45 or over and you can see blood in your urine and you don't have a urine infection
  • 45 or over and you can see blood in your urine, and you have a urine infection which keeps coming back after treatment
  • 60 or over and a dip stick test shows unexplained blood in the urine, and you also either have pain on passing urine or a raised white blood cell count
  • any age, and your doctor can feel a lump when they examine you or if a scan of your tummy (abdomen) shows a lump

Your GP should consider a non-urgent referral to a specialist if you are aged 60 or over. And you have a urine infection that won't go away or keeps coming back.

A urine infection will make your urine test positive to small amounts of protein and blood on a dip stick test.

Women are more likely to get urine infections than men. This is because the tube to the bladder (the urethra) is much shorter in women. The urethra is also closer to the opening of the bowel (anus) so it is easier for germs to get into the bladder.

Doctors are likely to want to rule out urine infection for women before making an urgent referral. This is not necessarily the case for men.

Ask your GP when you are likely to get an appointment.

Where you might see a specialist

Some hospitals have specialised clinics for people who have blood in their urine (haematuria).

Other hospitals have urology departments, which diagnose and treat people with any urinary system problems.

If you're still worried

If you’re worried that your GP isn’t taking your symptoms seriously you could print this page and take it to your appointment.

Ask your GP to talk it through with you. Then you may be able to decide together whether you should see a specialist and how soon.

For information and support, you can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

What should I do if I don’t get my appointment?

If your GP has referred you, ask them when you should get your appointment. Contact them again if you don’t get one. Or some hospitals have a referral service you could try contacting if you know which hospital you are going to. Explain that you are waiting for an urgent suspected cancer referral.

Waiting times

Your hospital is working towards waiting time targets. For example, a target to find out whether you have cancer or not. And there are targets to start treatment if you are diagnosed with cancer. These are slightly different depending on where you live in the UK. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 this may take a bit longer.

  • Suspected cancer: recognition and referral
    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), June 2015 (updated 2021)

  • Scottish referral guidelines for suspected cancer
    Health Improvement Scotland, January 2019 (updated 2020)

  • The Royal Marsden Manuel of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th Edition)
    L Dougherty and S Lister
    Wiley Blackwell, 2015

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

Last reviewed: 
28 Sep 2022
Next review due: 
28 Sep 2025

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