Urologic cancer detection and staging

Because no two people develop a urologic cancer in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources for proper evaluation of your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan that fits your specific needs.

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Tests and procedures

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) urologic cancer:

  • Biopsy. Removes cells or tissues for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
  • Blood test. Analyzes a sample of blood to help diagnose or treat a disease
  • Bone scan. Involves injection of a small amount of radioactive material into a blood vessel to create images of bones on a computer screen or on film
  • Chest X-ray. Uses a type of high-energy radiation to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body; shows if urologic cancer has spread to the lungs
  • CT scan (computed tomography). Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
  • Cystoscope. Uses a small, lighted tube with a camera to look inside the bladder
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP). Uses an injectable dye and an X-ray to help determine the cause of blood in the urine
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or NMRI (nuclear magnetic resonance imaging). Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide detailed images of body structures
  • Physical examination. Helps doctors diagnose or find the cause of symptoms and provides a standard way of monitoring any change in function throughout treatment
  • Retrograde pyelography. Uses an injectable dye and an X-ray to follow the path of urine through the ureters from the kidneys to the bladder; similar to the IVP; makes the lining of the bladder, ureters and kidneys easier to see
  • Ultrasound. Uses sound waves to make an image of areas inside the body.
  • Urine culture. Tests a urine sample in a laboratory for the presence of infection-causing bacteria
  • Urine cytology. Examines a sample of urine under a microscope to look for cancerous or precancerous cells
  • X-ray. Uses a type of high-energy radiation to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body that can show the location, size, and shape of a tumor and determine if urologic cancer has spread to the lungs or bones

Research at UCHealth also involves noninvasive ways to diagnose urologic cancer from urine, semen, and blood samples.