Urine Cytology Procedure

What is urine cytology and why is it done?
Cytology examines individual cells under a microscope. Epithelial cells from the urinary tract are shed into the urine; cytology can discover any abnormal cells that may be present. While urine cytology is most often used to diagnose bladder cancer, it can be used to discover additional urinary cancers including kidney cancer, prostate cancer, ureter cancer, and urethra cancer. Urine cytology can also discover inflammatory diseases or infection. Urine cytology may be ordered by your doctor if there is blood in your urine (hematuria) or if you have a history of urinary cancer.
How is urine cytology sample taken?
The most common method of urine collection is by urinating into a sterile container. This may be done at your doctor’s office, or from your home. A urine sample may also be obtained by inserting a thin, hollow tube known as a catheter in to the urethra, and collecting urine directly from the bladder.
What is done with the urine cytology sample?
Once your urine sample is collected, it is sent to a laboratory for examination by a pathologist. Individual cells are examined under a microscope, and inspected for any abnormal or cancerous properties. Results are negative if the cells do not present any abnormal characteristics. A sample is atypical if the cells are not normal but are not definitively cancerous, and positive if cancerous cells or bacteria are found in the urine sample. The sample may be unsatisfactory if too few or only degraded cells are present. In the event of an abnormal or positive sample, your doctor may follow up with a biopsy to confirm the presence of cancer or other disease.
Are there any risks of a urine cytology procedure?
Risks of collecting urine for a cytology procedure depend on the method of urine collection. If collected by urinating into a sterile container, this non-invasive procedure bears no risk. If the urine is collected using a catheter, there is risk of a urinary tract infection. Talk to your doctor about risks specific to your procedure.