Can a CT Scan Detect Bladder Cancer?

Bladder cancer most commonly forms in the lining of your urinary bladder.  CT scans can detect some bladder cancers.  We can also use CT scans to see if the bladder cancer has spread somewhere else in the body.

Symptoms of bladder cancer

Bladder cancer typically is diagnosed in patients over 55.  It is more common in men.  Blood in the urine (hematuria) is a common finding.  This can be visible to the eye or only on an analysis of your urine.  Other symptoms may include trouble with urination such as pain or frequency.

what does bladder cancer look like on CT?

Bladder cancer will often be a mass along the wall of the bladder or an area of thickening of the wall in one spot.  CT scan can not detect all bladder cancers, especially the small ones.  We also can not tell whether a bladder mass is cancerous.

What type of imaging test is best to find bladder cancer?

A special CT called a urogram is a good test to look at the urinary tract to include the kidneys, ureters and bladder.  Contrast will fill the bladder on this type of CT scan.  Tumors will look like a void or dark spot in the bright contrast (filling defect).

Ultrasound uses sound waves and can also get a good look inside the bladder and identify some tumors.

MRI is less commonly used but can also identify some bladder tumors.

How accurate is a CT scan in detecting bladder cancer?

It depends on the type of the CT scan and whether contrast was given.  A special CT called a urogram is done specifically for the urinary tract and will detect many bladder cancers.

A CT scan done for another reason or without contrast given through the vein may miss bladder cancer.

The bladder also has to be full of urine  to see inside it well on CT scan.  An empty bladder may hide bladder tumors.

Can bladder cancer be missed on CT?

Yes.  Bladder cancers can be missed.  Some are simply too small to be seen on CT.  Other CT scans are not done to look at the bladder and may not show the mass.

Will bladder problems show on a ct scan?

Yes.  We can see abnormalities of the wall of the bladder and inside it.  Other common problems besides cancer can be stones, blood clots, infections, pockets called diverticula, and wall thickening for various reasons.

Can CT show how advanced a bladder cancer is?

CT can show us tumor that has spread outside the bladder wall and into other parts of your body.  CT is also used to monitor for recurrence after treatment of bladder cancer.

How is bladder cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor may see cancerous cells in your urine.  A cystoscopy is a test where a urologist examines the bladder and may take tissue samples of the abnormal area.

Can a CT scan detect bladder cancer: summary

CT scans can detect some bladder cancers.  This depends on the size of the cancer.  Smaller cancers may not be seen.  It also depends on how the CT scan was done.   CT scans done specifically to examine the urinary tract are best (CT urogram).  The bladder also has to be filled with urine on CT to best evaluate it. 


Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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