In my experience, the idea of a cystoscopy is considerably worse than the actual thing. Although apparently men do have a more uncomfortable time as their urethra is longer.
It involves the urologist inserting a cystoscope through the urethra and into the bladder. The cystoscope is a flexible probe with a camera and the images are viewable on a screen.
In the examination room there’s a chair that flips back – like a gynaecologist’s – screen and curtained changing area with toilet. First, after peeing, I have to undress from the waist down and sit. Then the chair is pushed back into position and they insert some anaesthetic gel into the urethra which numbs everything before inserting a tube then the cystoscope. The tube is the worst bit but it’s more uncomfortable than painful and once that’s in I don’t feel anything else except the urge to pee, bizarrely. You can’t actually pee during a cystoscopy as fluid is being constantly flushed through the bladder but afterwards you need to, hence the toilet.
Then suddenly there’s a visual of inside my own bladder on the screen that we can all see. The bladder is pink and like the inside of an eyelid. The best-case scenario is always “no evidence of disease” (NED) and no nasty surprises!
Looking objectively at the whole procedure it’s been strangely wonderful to look my tumours in the eye so to speak. What other forms of cancer do you get such a view of them? It is shocking and terrifying; however, it is also reassuring that at a future check up I know I’ll see with my own eyes that my bladder is all clear and healthy again. This is what I visualize in the meantime. Fingers crossed for the next time for anyone going through it!