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Trans urethral removal of bladder tumour (TURBT)

This minor surgery is usually the first treatment you have for early bladder cancer.

What is TURBT?

The operation is called a transurethral resection of bladder tumour (TURBT). Your surgeon removes the tumour in your bladder through the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of your body.

You might have TURBT to remove early bladder cancer:

  • during a cystoscopy test if your specialist sees a tumour
  • after having tests that have showed a bladder tumour

You have it under general anaesthetic, which means you are asleep.

How you have it

The surgeon puts a thin, flexible tube called a cystoscope into the tube where your urine comes out (your urethra).

The cystoscope has optic fibres inside it, and a light and eyepiece at one end. The surgeon can look through the eyepiece or see images on a TV screen.

The surgeon passes small instruments down the cystoscope to cut any tumours out of your bladder lining.

What happens

Before surgery

You usually go to hospital on the day of your operation. You can’t eat or drink for at least 6 hours beforehand.

You might have a blood test and a chest x-ray before the cystoscopy. This is normal for anyone having a general anaesthetic.

You put on a hospital gown and lie down on the theatre trolley. The trolley is wheeled to the operating theatre, where you have the anaesthetic.

In some hospitals, you may have a spinal anaesthetic instead of a general anaesthetic. This is an injection into your spine (epidural) so you can’t feel anything from below your waist. You may also have some antibiotics before the test.

Your surgeon may put a dye into your bladder an hour before your surgery. The dye is sensitive to light. During the surgery they shine a blue light on the bladder lining. This is called photodynamic diagnosis. It can help to show up areas of cancer more clearly.

The operation

While you are under anaesthetic, your surgeon puts a thin, flexible tube called a cystoscope into your urethra.

They use the cystoscope to look at the inside of your bladder. They also pass small instruments down the cystoscope. They use these instruments to remove any tumours. They then use a probe to seal (cauterise) the area to stop any bleeding. 

Cystoscopy for a man

Diagram showing a cystoscopy for a man

Cystoscopy for a woman

Diagram showing a cystoscopy for a woman


Usually you have a dose of chemotherapy into the bladder at the end of your operation. This is to help stop the bladder cancer from coming back.

After surgery

Usually you have a tube into your bladder (catheter) to drain urine into a bag. You can walk around with this at the hospital.

You see blood in your urine for up to 3 days. Your doctor asks you to drink lots of fluids, to flush out your bladder. This helps to protect you from getting a urine infection.

Your nurse removes the catheter when your urine looks clear. You can then go home. 

Information and help

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