Diagnosing Urological Cancers

The best way to diagnose urological cancer will vary depending on the type of cancer. At Beaumont, we have the most up-to-date cancer screening and diagnostic tests.

Diagnosing prostate cancer

Prostate cancer screening is a controversial issue, so recommendations vary among doctors. Ask your doctor if prostate cancer screening is right for you, and if it is, when you should start screening. Screening tests include digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. A digital rectal exam involves your doctor inserting a finger into your rectum to feel for abnormal texture, size and shape of your prostate gland. The PSA test is a blood test that looks for higher-than-normal prostate-specific antigen in your blood, which may indicate cancer. An elevated PSA can also be a sign of non-cancerous conditions, like infection, inflammation or enlargement of the prostate.

If you have an abnormal DRE or PSA test, your doctor will likely recommend additional testing. Other diagnostic tests for prostate cancer include:

  • Transrectal ultrasound (an ultrasound of your prostate)
  • Prostate biopsy (removing and analyzing a sample of cells from your prostate)

If your prostate biopsy indicates cancer, the lab will test your prostate tissue samples to see if they act like cancer cells. If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor may order additional tests to find out how advanced your cancer is. This is called staging. Some of the tests that may be involved in staging are:

  • Ultrasound
  • Bone scan
  • Computerized tomography scan (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography scan (PET scan)

Diagnosing bladder cancer

If your doctor suspects you have bladder cancer, he or she may recommend tests to confirm or rule out cancer. Those tests may include:

  • Physical exam of the bladder, which can be done through the rectum or vagina
  • Urinalysis to check for blood in the urine
  • Cystoscopy
  • Lab tests, such as
    • Urine cytology
    • Urine culture
    • Urine tumor marker test
  • Biopsy of the bladder
  • Imaging tests
    • Ultrasound
    • Bone scan
    • Computerized tomography scan (CT scan)
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) or intravenous urogram (IVU)
  • Retrograde pyelogram

Diagnosing kidney cancer

Tests to diagnose kidney cancer are similar to tests used to diagnose other urological cancers. The most common tests used to diagnose kidney cancer are:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Imaging tests, such as
    • Computerized tomography scan (CT scan)
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Biopsy of kidney tissue

If you do have cancer, your doctor may recommend other tests to figure out how advanced the cancer is. You may have additional CT scans or other imaging scans.

Diagnosing penile cancer

If your doctor suspects you have penile cancer, he or she will recommend tests to determine whether you do have cancer. Those tests may include:

  • Physical exam, focusing on the penis
  • Biopsies
    • Incisional biopsy, which removes only part of the growth or lesion
    • Excisional biopsy, which removes all of the growth or lesion
    • CT-guided fine needle biopsies
    • Lymph node biopsy, which is most often done if cancer has invaded deep into the penis; it can be done by fine needle aspiration of the lymph nodes or by surgically removing an entire lymph node or nodes
  • Imaging tests
    • Computerized tomography scan (CT scan)
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • Ultrasound

Diagnosing testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is often found during a routine self-exam of the testicles or through unintentional finding of a lump in a testicle. If you or your doctor find a lump in one of your testicles, you will likely need to have additional tests to determine whether you have cancer. Those tests may include:

  • Ultrasound of the scrotum and testicles
  • Blood tests for tumor markers

If the test results reveal that you may have cancer, your doctor may recommend that you have surgery to remove the affected testicle. This is called a radical inguinal orchiectomy. Once the testicle is removed, it will be analyzed in a lab to find out whether the growth is cancer, and if it is cancer, how advanced it is.

If you do have cancer, additional tests will be required to find out whether the cancer has spread. Those tests will likely include:

  • Computerized tomography scan (CT scan)
  • Additional blood tests for tumor markers

When to call your doctor

If you have symptoms of any urological cancer, call your doctor right away to make an appointment. With one phone call to Beaumont's Urological Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic, you'll get in touch with a nurse navigator who will help you every step of the way. Their number is 877-BEAT-CANCER (877-232-8226).

Learn more about urological cancers

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