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How Your Doctor Uses Biopsies to Diagnose Bladder Cancer

A biopsy is a small sample of cells and tissue. A bladder biopsy is usually taken during cystoscopy. This procedure lets your doctor examine the inside of your bladder. Your doctor slides a thin tube with an attached tiny camera lens and light, called a cystoscope, through your urethra into your bladder. If your doctor sees something that looks like cancer, he or she will remove a small sample of the tissue.

Your doctor sends any removed tissue to a specialized doctor called a pathologist. This specialist looks at the cells under a microscope for signs of cancer.

If there is cancer, the biopsy can help tell whether the cancer is just on the surface of the bladder or if it has invaded the inner layers of the bladder wall. The pathologist gives the cancer a grade, such as grade I or grade II, based on how abnormal or aggressive it looks under the microscope. The higher the number, the more aggressive the cancer.

It usually takes several days for the results of your biopsy to come back. A biopsy is the only sure way to tell if you have cancer and what kind of cancer it is.

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