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Cystoscopy under local anaesthetic

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.

What happens

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

Diagram showing a cystoscopy for a man

Cystoscopy for a woman

Diagram showing a 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.

Possible risks

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 worrying time. You can contact your specialist nurse if you’re finding it hard to cope. It can also help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

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

Further tests

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).

Information and help

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