Bladder Cancer Treatment
Your treatment options depend on the stage of bladder cancer, your overall health and your preferences about treatment. In metastatic disease, the location and extent of the bladder cancer is also an important consideration.
You do not have to rush to make a decision, so consider the options carefully. Ask questions if you do not understand any aspect of treatment or the terms your doctors are using. Research shows that cancer survivors of all educational levels and backgrounds can have a hard time communicating with their health care team. One of the best ways to improve communication with your health care team is to prepare your visits so that you can best make use of the time.
Bladder Cancer Treatment Plan
A treatment plan is a way to deal with both the short and long term goals of managing your bladder cancer. There are several treatment options for bladder cancer, depending on the cancer stage and the patient’s age and general health. Patients have time for second opinions and to talk through all of their options with their doctors and develop a treatment plan that best fits their needs.
Following are the most common methods of treating bladder cancer:
In surgical procedures for bladder cancer, a doctor removes all or part of the bladder. Surgery is the most common treatment for bladder cancer. The type of surgery depends on the stage and grade of the tumor and can include:
Transurethral Resection (TUR) -
Often used to treat early bladder cancer, the doctor inserts a cystoscope into the bladder and then uses a tool with a small wire loop at the end to remove the cancer with an electric current and burn away remaining cancer cells. Some patients may have chemotherapy or biological therapy after TUR.
- Often used to treat invasive bladder cancer, the doctor removes the entire bladder, nearby lymph nodes, part of the urethra, and nearby organs that might contain cancer cells. In men, these include the prostate, seminal vesicles and part of the vas deferens. In women, these include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and part of the vagina.
- The doctor may remove only part of the bladder when a patient has a low-grade cancer in just one area of the bladder wall.
In radiation therapy
, a large machine directs external radiation at the abdomen and uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation can be given alone or with chemotherapy, surgery, or both. It is used to destroy cancer cells that remain after surgery and to relieve pain caused by cancer.
A small number of patients have radiation before surgery to shrink the tumor. Some bladder cancer patients may have internal radiation. The doctor places a container of radioactive substance into the bladder through an incision in the abdomen. The patient stays in the hospital for a few days. Some patients receive both internal and external radiation.
is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells, and may include one drug or a combination. Patients may have chemotherapy alone or with surgery, radiation, or both.
For patients with superficial bladder cancer, the doctor may use local therapy after TUR. This involves administering liquid drugs into the bladder using a catheter. The drugs remain in the bladder for several hours at a time. If the cancer is invasive or has spread, the doctor may give drugs through a vein. The drugs flow through the bloodstream to other parts of the body.
is also called immunotherapy
. It is a treatment that uses the body’s immune system in fighting cancer. This is often used after TUR and helps prevent the cancer from returning.
Social networking and online support groups are important tools. Reaching out to others who have or have had similar experiences can provide you with valuable insights. Check out Cancer Support Community's The Living Room
for more information on clinically facilitated support online.