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Bladder Cancer: Tests after Diagnosis

What tests might I have after being diagnosed?

After a diagnosis of bladder cancer, you will likely need more tests. These tests help your healthcare providers learn more about your cancer. They can help show if it has grown into nearby areas or spread to other parts of your body. The test results help your healthcare providers decide the best ways to treat the cancer. If you have any questions about these or other tests, be sure to talk with your healthcare team.

The tests you may have can include:

  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)

  • Ultrasound

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

  • Chest X-ray

Imaging tests

Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)

For this test, a contrast dye is put into a vein in your arm or hand. As the dye moves through your blood and outlines your kidney, ureters, and bladder, your healthcare provider takes a series of X-rays. This test is used to find tumors, other changes or blockages. It can show the blood flow through your kidneys. It can also be used to check for spread (metastasis) of the bladder cancer to other parts of the urinary tract.


This test uses sound waves to create images of internal organs. For this test, a technician puts a gel on your belly. . He or she uses a small wand (called a transducer) and presses on your skin. This allows the technician to look at and make pictures of your bladder and nearby organs, and check blood flow through nearby blood vessels. The transducer gives off sound waves and picks up the echoes as they bounce off the tissues. This test is used to help figure out if the cancer has spread from your bladder to other nearby parts of the body.

CT scan

A CT or CAT scan is an imaging test that uses X-rays to make images of your body. A CT scan can show detailed images of any part of your body. These include your bones, muscles, fat, blood vessels, lymph nodes, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than regular X-rays.


MRI uses a combination of large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images of your insides. For this test, you’ll lie very still on a narrow table as it passes through a tube-like scanner. If you aren’t comfortable in small spaces, you may get a sedative before the test. The scanner directs a beam of radio waves at the part of your body your healthcare provider wants to look at. You may need more than one set of images. Each one may take 2 to 15 minutes. This test is painless. But it may last an hour or more. The machine is loud during the test. You can ask for earplugs or headphones with music.

Bone scan

A bone scan may be done if your healthcare provider thinks the cancer may have spread to your bones based on the results of other tests. For this test, the provider gives you an injection of a mildly radioactive substance. It travels through your blood and collects in parts of your bones that are damaged. A camera is then used to scan your whole body. The radioactive areas can be seen on the scans. Other than the injection, a bone scan is painless. The radioactive substance is washed out of your body in your urine over the next few days,

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray is done to see if there are any changes in your lungs. It may show that the bladder cancer has spread to your lungs or chest. An X-ray uses a small amount of radiation to make an image of organs and bones inside your body. The test can show also enlarged lymph nodes in your chest. This test takes a few minutes and doesn’t hurt.

Working with your healthcare provider

Your healthcare provider will talk with you about which tests you'll need. Make sure to get ready for the tests as instructed. Ask questions and talk about any concerns you have. Be sure you know when and how you'll get the test results.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kim Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2019
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