There is no national screening programme for bladder cancer in the UK. This is because there isn't a test that reliably picks up bladder cancer at an early stage. 

What is screening?

Screening means testing people for early stages of a disease. This is before they have any symptoms. For screening to be useful the tests:

  • need to be reliable at picking up cancers
  • overall must do more good than harm to people taking part
  • must be something that people are willing to do

Screening tests are not perfect and have some risks. The screening programme should also be good value for money for the NHS.

Research into tests

At the moment there is no reliable screening test for bladder cancer.

Doctors have been looking at urine tests to diagnose bladder cancer. A urine sample is less invasive, simpler and quicker than other bladder cancer tests such as a cystoscopy.

Testing urine for blood

Although many people with bladder cancer have blood in their urine, testing for blood in the urine is not a useful screening test for the general population. This is because small amounts of blood in urine can be caused by other medical conditions, such as a urine infection or kidney problems.

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

Other urine tests

Doctors are also looking into other urine tests to diagnose bladder cancer. In one study the researchers are looking for a protein (MCM5) in the urine sample.

In another study, researchers are looking at whether dogs can help diagnose bladder cancer by smelling urine samples.

People at higher risk of getting bladder cancer

Talk to your doctor if you think you are at a high risk of developing bladder cancer. You may be able to have regular check ups.

Whether you think you are at high risk or not, it is very important to see your doctor if you develop any bladder symptoms. This is the best way of finding bladder cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.

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