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Cytology exam of urine

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

  • Alternative Names

    Urine cytology

  • 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 by a pathologist who looks for abnormal cells.

  • How to prepare for the test

    No special preparation is needed.

  • How the test will feel

    There is no discomfort associated with a clean catch urine specimen.

  • Why the test is performed

    The test is done to detect cancer and inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract. The test is often done when blood is detected in the urine. It is also useful for monitoring a patient with a history of cancer of the urinary tract. The test may occasionally be ordered for individuals who are at high risk of developing bladder cancer.

    The test can also detect cytomegalovirus and other viral diseases.

  • Normal Values

    The urine shows normal cells and is relatively free of debris.

    Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. 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.

  • Special considerations

    The diagnosis of cancer or inflammatory disease cannot be made exclusively by this test. The results are confirmed by other diagnostic tests or procedures. A technique called fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH) can be used to evaluate the genetic material in the cells shed in the urine to better detect cancers.

  • References

    Bajorin DJ. Tumors of the kidney, bladder, ureters, and renal pelvis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 207.

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

Review Date: 9/30/2009

Reviewed 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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