What is a cystoscopy and ureteroscopy?

These are tests to look inside the bladder, ureter and renal pelvis. They are used to diagnose cancer of the urinary system. Both tests are usually done under a general anaesthetic. In most cases, you can go home the same day.

Having a cystoscopy and ureteroscopy

In both tests, a doctor passes a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera and light on the end into the opening of the urethra. This is either at the tip of the penis or just in front of the vagina. 

During a cystoscopy, the doctor passes the tube into the bladder. During a ureteroscopy, they pass the tube into the bladder and then move it further into the ureter or renal pelvis. 

The doctor may take samples of cells from any areas that look abnormal (biopsy). They send the samples to a laboratory to be examined for signs of cancer. The doctor may also take a sample of pee (urine) from the renal pelvis to be tested for cancer cells.

Possible side effects

You may have the following side effects:

  • blood in your urine
  • soreness or mild pain when you pass urine
  • pain in your tummy area (abdomen) or back. 

Contact the hospital if these side effects do not get better or you feel unwell after 1 or 2 days. You may have an infection.

Having a retrograde pyelography

Sometimes x-rays of the kidney and ureter are taken during a ureteroscopy. This is called retrograde pyelography.

The doctor places a tube (catheter) into the ureter. They then pass a dye up the catheter. This is so the ureter and renal pelvis show more clearly on x-rays.

About our information

  • References
    Below is a sample of the sources used in our upper urinary tract urothelial cancer (UTUC) information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk
    European Association of Urology. Upper urinary tract urothelial carcinoma guidelines. EAU Guidelines. Edn. presented at the EAU Annual Congress Copenhagen 2018. ISBN 978-94-92671-01-1. Available from www.uroweb.org/wp-content/uploads/Upper-Urinary-Tract-Urothelial-Carcinoma-large-text-V3.pdf (accessed April 2021).
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Atezolizumab for untreated PD-L1-positive locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer when cisplatin is unsuitable. Technology appraisal guidance (TA492). Published 06 December 2017. Last updated 12 July 2018. Available from www.nice.org.uk/guidance/TA492  (accessed April 2021)
    Birtle A, et al. Adjuvant chemotherapy in upper tract urothelial carcinoma (the POUT trial): a phase 3, open-label, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 2020; 395, 10232, 1268-1277. Available from www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30415-3/fulltext (accessed June 2021).


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Lisa Pickering, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 November 2021
Next review: 01 November 2024
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

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