After a diagnosis of bladder cancer, you will likely have other tests. These tests help your healthcare providers learn more about your cancer. They can help show if the cancer 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)
Computed tomography (CT) scan
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
For this test, you’ll receive a contrast dye into a vein in your arm or hand. As the dye moves through and outlines your kidney, ureters, and bladder, your healthcare provider takes a series of x-rays. This test is used to find tumors, abnormalities, or any blockages. It can also check blood flow in your kidneys. It may also be used to check for spread (metastasis) of the bladder cancer to other parts of the urinary tract.
This test is also called a sonogram. It uses sound waves to create images of internal organs. For this test, your healthcare provider puts a gel on your belly. He or she uses a small wand (called a transducer) and presses on your skin. This allows him or her to look at your bladder and nearby organs, and check blood flow through 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.
A CT or CAT scan is an imaging test that uses X-rays and computer technology. It makes horizontal or axial images (often called slices) of your body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body. These include your bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than regular X-rays.
MRI uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within your body. For this test, you’ll lie still on a table as it passes through a tube-like scanner. If you aren’t comfortable in small spaces, you may receive a sedative before the test. The scanner directs a beam of radio waves at the area 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. It may last an hour or more. The machine is loud during the test. You can ask for earplugs or headphones with music.
A PET scan may show areas of cancer that may not be seen on a CT scan or an MRI. It can look at your whole body. For this test, you either swallow or are injected with a mildly radioactive substance. This is usually a form of sugar (glucose). The PET scan will show where in your body the glucose is being used the most. This helps find active cells that are dividing quickly, such as cancer cells. You’ll lie still on a table that is pushed into the PET scanner. The scanner will rotate around you and take pictures. Other than the injection, a PET scan is painless. Some people are sensitive to the substance. This may cause nausea, a headache, or vomiting. Some newer machines can do PET and CT scans at the same time. This way, areas that show up on the PET scan can be compared to the more detailed image of the CT scan.
A chest X-ray is done to see if there are any changes in your lungs. This 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 enlarged lymph nodes in your chest. This test takes a few minutes and doesn’t cause pain.
Your healthcare provider will talk with you about which tests you'll have. Make sure to get ready for the tests as instructed. Ask questions and talk about any concerns you have.
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