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Friday, June 6, 2008

Further tests for bladder cancer

If the tests show that you have cancer of the bladder, the specialist doctor at the hospital (the urologist) will want you to have some further tests to see if the cancer has spread. The tests also help the doctor to decide on the best type of treatment for you.

Blood tests

Samples of your blood will be taken to check your general health, the number of cells in your blood (blood count), and to see how well your kidneys and liver are working.

Chest x-ray

This is taken to check that your lungs and heart are healthy.

Intravenous urogram (IVU)

This test is also known as an intravenous pyelogram (IVP). It is done in the hospital x-ray department and takes about an hour.

A dye is injected into a vein, usually in the arm, and goes through the bloodstream to the kidneys. The doctor can watch the passage of the dye on an x-ray screen and see any abnormalities in the kidneys, bladder and the rest of the urinary system.

The dye will probably make you feel hot and flushed for a few minutes, but this feeling gradually disappears. You may feel some discomfort in your abdomen, but this will only be for a short time. You should be able to go home as soon as the test is over.

CT scan (computerised tomography scan)

A CT scan checks how deeply the cancer has spread into the wall of the bladder and whether it has spread into the area around the bladder. A series of x-ray pictures is taken of the pelvis and fed into a computer to give a detailed picture of the inside of the body.

You will be given a special liquid to drink a few hours before your test, and again, in the x-ray department. This liquid shows up on x-ray and makes sure that a clear picture is taken.

Once you are lying comfortably on the couch, the scan can be taken. The scan itself is painless. You have to lie still for up to 10–15 minutes.

Most people are able to go home as soon as their scan is over.

Having a CT scan
Having a CT scan

MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging scan)

This test is similar to a CT scan, but uses magnetism instead of x-rays to build up cross-sectional pictures of your body. You cannot have an MRI scan if you have any metal in your body, such as heart pacemakers or certain types of surgical clips.

During the test, you will be asked to lie very still on a couch inside a long tube for about 30 minutes. It can be slightly uncomfortable and some people feel claustrophobic during the scan. It is also very noisy, but you will be given earplugs or headphones to wear. You can usually take someone with you into the room to keep you company.

Ultrasound scan

In this test, sound waves make up a picture of the inside of the body. You may have scans of your bladder and pelvis. The scan will be done in the hospital scanning department.

Before your test, you will be asked to drink plenty of fluids so that your bladder is full and can be seen clearly. Once you are lying comfortably on your back, a special gel is spread over the skin of your abdomen. A small device, like a microphone, is passed over the area. The echoes are made into a picture by a computer. The scan is completely painless. It takes about 15–20 minutes. Once the scan is over, you will be able to empty your bladder. The scan department staff can show you a nearby toilet.

Waiting for your test results

It will probably take several days for the results of your tests to be ready, and this waiting period will obviously be an anxious time for you. It may help if you can talk things over with a close friend or relative. You can also contact Cancerbackup or another organisation.

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