You might have this test if you have blood in your urine. Your doctor may want to look directly inside your bladder. The bladder and kidneys are part of the urinary system.

How you have it

Cystoscopy for a man

Diagram showing a cystoscopy for a man

Cystoscopy for a woman

Diagram showing a cystoscopy for a woman

Your doctor may use a thin, flexible tube to check inside your bladder. This is called a cystoscopy.

The thin tube is called a cystoscope. It 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.

The doctor can also pass small instruments down the cystoscope to take samples of tissue (biopsies) from the lining of your bladder, if needed.

You can have a cystoscopy under a local or general anaesthetic, depending on what the doctor needs to do.

This test only takes a few minutes. You usually have it during an outpatient appointment.

What happens

You need to 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 (your 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 might 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.

After the test

There are usually no after effects apart from some discomfort when you pass urine for the first time.

If the test shows anything that looks abnormal, your doctor will arrange for you to go into hospital for a cystoscopy under general anaesthetic. This is so they can take tissue samples (biopsies).

The doctor or nurse might 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.

You go to hospital for this test, usually on the day. You are asked not eat or drink anything for at least 6 hours before the cystoscopy.

What happens

You may need a blood test and a chest x-ray before the cystoscopy. This is normal for anyone having a general anaesthetic.

You then put on a hospital gown and lie down on the theatre trolley. The trolley is wheeled to the operating theatre, where you have the anaesthetic.

In some hospitals, you may have a spinal anaesthetic instead of a general anaesthetic. This is an injection into your spine (epidural) so you can’t feel anything from below your waist. You may also have some antibiotics before the test.

Your specialist thoroughly examines the inside of your bladder and urethra using the cystoscope while you’re under anaesthetic. They take samples of tissue (biopsies) from any areas that look abnormal. They also take biopsies from areas that look normal, to compare them with. This helps to make sure of the diagnosis.

The sampled areas are then sealed with a hot probe (cauterised) to help stop any bleeding.

After the test

You can usually go home the same day. This depends on:

  • how many biopsies were taken
  • how you react to the anaesthetic
  • the time of day you have the anaesthetic – if it’s very late in the day, it may be better to stay overnight

If there are large tumours which need treatment, you may need to stay longer. You may also need a tube into your bladder (catheter) to drain urine for a few days after the operation.

Getting your results

Your scan will be looked at by a specialist doctor and you should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. You won't get any results at the time of the scan. 

Waiting for test results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact them if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You might have the contact details for a specialist nurse. You can contact them for information and support if you need to. It may 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.

Contact the doctor that arranged the test if you haven't heard anything after a couple of weeks.

Last reviewed: 
28 May 2020
Next review due: 
28 May 2023
  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    Tobias J and D Hochhauser 
    Blackwell, 2015

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