Cystoscopy – A Patient’s Perspective

A cystoscopy is an important test, used by your urologist, to examine the inside of the bladder.  It’s an outpatient procedure, which means you may be at your doctor’s office, a hospital, or clinic and go home the same day. This procedure lets your doctor check the complete length of your urethra and the bladder for cancerous or pre-cancerous polyps, narrow areas called strictures, abnormal growths, and other problems. Your urologist will insert a thin, lighted instrument called a cystoscope into the bladder through the urethra.The procedure generally takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

Female bladder in medical illustration shows the anatomy inspected by Dr. Engel during Cystoscopy

  • You’ll need to pee first. The test is done on an empty bladder
  • You’ll lie down comfortably
  • You’ll get medicine. Your urethra is cleaned and numbed. I got lidocaine gel 10-15 minutes prior to the procedure. It also adds some lubrication to mitigate discomfort
  • Your doctor inserts the scope through the urethra and into your bladder
  • The doctor examines your urethra and bladder. I was able to watch it on a screen.
  • The doctor fills your bladder using water or saline through the cystoscope.

It was determined that I had cancer – a tumor they found during my cystoscopy. We scheduled surgery 2 weeks from my cystoscopy, and they removed the whole tumor. Since having the tumor removed, I’ve required a cystoscopy every 6 months, which eventually was pushed out to 1-year intervals. Be sure to keep your appointments as early detection often allows for better outcomes.

Complications of cystoscopy are rare but can happen. The risks of having a cystoscopy can include an infection so I was given an antibiotic after the procedure to help prevent this.

Once you are home, you want to stay hydrated and urinate frequently.  It’s important to look for any signs of infection following the procedure. If you feel there is an infection, contact your urologist immediately.

Remember that regular screening, as recommended by your urologist can save your life. Don’t avoid your check-ups no matter how nervous you may be!