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Urine Cytology

Does this test have other names?

Urine exam with microscope

What is this test?

This test looks at a sample of your urine to see if it contains abnormal cells.

The test is used to diagnose cancers of the urinary tract. These include cancers of the kidney, bladder, ureter, and urethra.

A healthcare provider called a pathologist looks at the cells from your urine sample under a microscope. Cancer cells may have a distinct look. In most cases, cells that look like cancer are a sign that you have cancer somewhere in your urinary tract.

This test can also find inflamed or infectious cells from the urinary tract. It may give more information on your condition if you have bladder pain syndrome (interstitial cystitis).

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test to check for problems in your urinary tract, such as bladder cancer. Symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Blood in your urine

  • Pain in your lower back or around the genital area

  • Painful urination

  • Urgent or frequent need to urinate

Symptoms of kidney cancer include:

  • Blood in your urine 

  • Lower back pain

  • Belly (abdominal) pain

  • Weight loss

  • Tiredness

If you have bladder pain syndrome, this test can also give your healthcare provider more information on your condition. Symptoms of bladder pain syndrome include:

  • Bladder pressure

  • Pelvic pain or discomfort often linked to bladder filling, not because of any other health problem

What other tests might I have along with this test?

You may also have other tests to diagnose problems in your urinary tract. These may include:

  • Urinalysis, to check your urine for red blood cells, white blood cells, and sugar

  • Imaging tests, including X-rays and CT scans of your urinary tract

  • Cystoscopy, in which your healthcare provider puts a very narrow tube with a camera in it through your urethra to look at the lining of your bladder and urethra

What do my test results mean?

Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, and other things. Your test results may be different depending on the lab used. They may not mean you have a problem. Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you.

Negative results mean that no abnormal cells were found. But this result is not accurate enough to completely rule out a problem in the urinary tract.

A positive result means that abnormal cells were found and that you may have a problem in your urinary tract. 

How is this test done?

This test is done with a urine sample. Your healthcare provider will tell you how to collect a urine sample.

Does this test pose any risks?

This test poses no known risks.

What might affect my test results?

Other factors aren't likely to affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. Be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illegal drugs you may use.  

Online Medical Reviewer: Chad Haldeman-Englert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2022
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