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Cytology exam of urine

A cytology exam of urine is a test used to detect cancer and inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract.

How the Test is Performed

A clean catch (midstream) urine sample is needed. For information on how to obtain the sample, see clean catch urine specimen.

The urine sample can also be collected during an examination of the inside of your bladder called cystoscopy.

The urine sample is processed in a laboratory and examined under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.

How to Prepare for the Test

No special preparation is needed.

How the Test Will Feel

There is no discomfort with a clean catch urine specimen.

Why the Test is Performed

The test is done to detect cancer of the urinary tract. It is often done when blood is seen in the urine.

It is also useful for monitoring patients who have a history of urinary tract cancer. The test may sometimes be ordered for people who are at high risk for bladder cancer.

This test can also detect cytomegalovirus and other viral diseases.

Normal Results

The urine shows normal cells and is free of debris.

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal cells in the urine may be a sign of inflammation of the urinary tract or cancer of the kidney, ureters, bladder, or urethra.

Considerations

Cancer or inflammatory disease cannot be diagnosed with this test alone. The results need to be confirmed with other tests or procedures.

A technique called fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) can be used to test the genetic material in cells shed in the urine to better detect cancers.

Alternative Names

Urine cytology

References

Bajorin DJ. Tumors of the kidney, bladder, ureters, and renal pelvis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 203.

Gerber GS, Brendler CB. Evaluation of the urologic patient: History, physical examination, and urinalysis. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 3.

Update Date: 9/16/2011

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Scott Miller, MD, Urologist in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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