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A urinalysis is a test that measures substances found in urine, such as electrolytes, hormones or waste products of metabolism. It is one of the many studies that can be done to examine urine.

Why a urinalysis is done

A urinalysis may be done:

  • as part of a routine checkup
  • to provide information about a person’s general health and how organs of the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) are functioning
  • to screen for metabolic and kidney disorders
  • to screen for urinary tract infections
  • to check for cancer in the urinary tract
  • to look for and measure substances that aren’t normally found in urine
    • cells lining the kidneys and bladder
    • red blood cells and white blood cells
    • bacteria or other organisms
    • substances that the kidneys filter (such as glucose)

How a urinalysis is done

A urinalysis test is usually done in a private laboratory or hospital laboratory. Urine is collected in a clean container (at home, the doctor’s office or laboratory). No special preparation is usually needed, unless specific urine studies are also being done. These urine studies may require food restrictions, medication restrictions or fasting overnight.

The method of collecting the urine may vary:

  • random sample
    • This is the most common type of sample collected.
    • It can be done any time of the day.
  • first (early) morning sample
    • Urine is most concentrated first thing in the morning and is more likely to show abnormalities.
  • clean-catch (midstream) urine sample
    • The genitals are cleaned before the urine sample is collected.
      • Males use special wipes to clean the head of the penis.
      • Females use special wipes to clean the area between the labia.
    • The first bit of the urine goes into the toilet, and then some of the urine is collected in the container.
  • timed or 24-hour urine collection
    • For a timed sample, urine is collected at a certain time of the day.
    • For 24-hour sample, urine is collected over a period of 24 hours.
      • All urine voided during a 24-hour period is saved and put into a large container, which sometimes contains special preservatives or needs to be refrigerated.
      • At the end of the 24-hour period, the person urinates and adds this last voiding to the specimen container.
  • creatinine clearance
    • Creatinine is a protein that is removed from the blood by the kidneys.
    • This test measures the clearance rate (how quickly creatinine is removed from the blood) to determine how well the kidneys are working.
    • Creatinine is measured in both the urine and the blood over a 24-hour period.

The urine sample collected is sent to the laboratory to be analyzed and examined under a microscope.

  • Physical characteristics, such as appearance and colour of the urine, are noted, and then a microscopic examination of the urine is done.
  • A dipstick (a special reagent strip with chemicals on it) is dipped into the urine, then removed and compared to a chart.
  • A series of chemical tests are done.

What the results mean

A complete urinalysis involves visual examination, chemical examination and microscopic examination. Many abnormalities in urine are not cancer-related. Diet, medications, physical activity, stress and many other factors can affect urine study results.

Urinalysis Results


  • normal urine varies in colour from pale to dark yellow
  • cloudy urine may occur because WBCs, RBCs or bacteria are present
  • some chemotherapy drugs can colour the urine red or blue-green


  • measures acidity or alkalinity of the urine


  • normally only a trace or none should be present
  • the presence of protein may indicate:
    • kidney disease
    • inflammation or cancer of the urinary tract (bladder, prostate or urethra)
  • high levels of protein in urine and blood may be due to blood and bone marrow-related cancers (such as multiple myeloma or lymphoma)

glucose (sugar)

  • not normally present
  • the presence of glucose can indicate:
    • diabetes
    • liver or pancreatic disease

ketones (by-products of metabolism)

  • not normally present
  • can indicate diabetes


  • not normally present
  • indicates bleeding into or within the kidneys or urinary tract, possibly because of cancer

bilirubin (a by-product of red blood cell breakdown)

  • not normally present
  • the presence of bilirubin, may indicate:
    • cancer in the liver
    •  blockage (obstruction) of the bile ducts  because of cancer


  • normally present in low concentrations
  • an increase or decrease can indicate liver disease or obstruction


  • normally not present
  • the presence of nitrite may indicate:
    • bacteria is present
    • possible urinary tract infection

white blood cells (WBCs or leukocytes)

  • not normally present
  • the presence of WBCs is usually because of urinary tract infection

specific gravity

  • measures how concentrated or dilute urine is

Note: Not all components of urine or urinalysis findings are listed above. Only the main cancer-related ones have been included

What happens if a change or abnormality is found

The doctor will decide if more tests, procedures, follow-up care or additional treatment are needed.


A substance in the blood and other body fluids that carries an electric charge. Electrolytes are responsible for the movement of nutrients and wastes into and out of cells to keep body fluids balanced and to allow muscles to function properly.

Examples of electrolytes include calcium, chloride, potassium and sodium.


A substance that regulates specific body functions, such as metabolism, growth and reproduction.

Natural hormones are produced by glands. Artificial or synthetic hormones can be made in the lab.


The chemical processes in the body that create and use energy. It includes breaking down food and transforming it into energy, eliminating wastes and toxins, breathing, circulating blood and regulating temperature.

Metabolic means referring to or having to do with metabolism, as in metabolic rate.

multiple myeloma

A type of cancer that starts in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies to help the body fight infection) in the bone marrow.


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