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Diagnosing Bladder Cancer

Effective bladder cancer treatment starts with an accurate diagnosis. At the University of Chicago Medicine, we use the latest technology and diagnostic techniques to deliver a definitive bladder cancer diagnosis that is used to create an individualized treatment plan.

Through our advanced diagnostics, we can conclude whether you have:

  • Localized, noninvasive bladder cancer, also referred to as superficial bladder cancer, is when the cancer is contained within the bladder and has not invaded the muscle
  • Locally advanced, invasive bladder cancer means that the cancer is still contained within the bladder but has spread to the muscle layer of the organ
  • Metastatic bladder cancer occurs when cancer cells have spread beyond the bladder to adjacent organs, lymph nodes, bones or other parts of the body

Our Diagnostic Services

Our specialists will perform one or more of the following tests to determine the presence or extent of any existing bladder cancer.



During a cystoscopy, a thin, lighted tube is inserted through the urethra to allow your physician to thoroughly examine the inside of your bladder and identify the presence of any abnormalities.

The University of Chicago Medicine is the only hospital in Chicago that is performing blue light cystoscopies. Blue light cystoscopies use color contrast to highlight tumors that could be missed during a traditional cystoscopy. This innovative technology provides our physicians with an enhanced view of the bladder, increasing the accuracy of the diagnosis.


A biopsy, or transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT), is when cells are collected for further evaluation. During a biopsy, a special tool with a wire loop is passed through the scope during a cystoscopy to remove a tumor or tissue from the bladder for examination. Often, biopsies will be done on multiple parts of the bladder. This will help your physician determine if the cancer has invaded the muscle or identify cancerous changes in the organ.

Imaging Test

For patients who have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, your physician may perform additional imaging tests in order to assess the extent of your cancer or determine whether or not it has spend to other organs or bones. Additional tests include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT scan)
  • PET/CT scan
  • Bone scan
  • Chest x-ray