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Despite National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines suggesting the use of urine cytology (UC) for the diagnosis of bladder cancer, its use is variable. Reasons for this include sub-optimal sensitivity, financial cost, availability of alternative tests, and uncertainty over interpretation of results. Anecdotally, however, suspicious or malignant UC when other investigations are normal, occasionally leads to a cancer diagnosis. Therefore, we retrospectively assessed a cohort of our haematuria patients to determine the value of UC in cancer diagnosis and the clinical significance of atypical UC (graded as C3).
Patients and methods
We identified 3018 patients with haematuria referred on the suspected cancer pathway (“two-week wait”) in 2015. We retrospectively analysed clinical, demographic, and follow-up/outcome data in a random cohort of 500 cases.
Median follow up was 58 months. Urological malignancy was diagnosed in 61/500 patients; all were identified by cystoscopy or imaging, i.e., irrespective of UC result. No cases of atypical UC re-presented with a ‘missed’ cancer diagnosis within the five-year follow-up period. However, suspicious and malignant cytology was associated with high-grade/aggressive tumours and subsequent tumour recurrence.
Urine cytology did not identify any cancers that were not already found by imaging or cystoscopy. Atypical UC in the presence of negative haematuria investigations does not appear to be associated with malignancy, and therefore should not alter patient management nor prompt further investigation. Suspicious and malignant UC was associated with higher risk cancers and could therefore be used to prioritise waiting lists for transurethral resection of bladder tumour (TURBT), however, it is unclear whether this might benefit patient outcomes. We conclude therefore that UC has no role in haematuria investigations.
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