Bladder Cancer Center

Bladder Cancer Treatment

Bladder cancer treatment
Once cancer has been diagnosed and staged, there is a lot to think about before you and your doctor choose a treatment plan. The best treatment possible depends on the cell type and stage of cancer as well as general health, age, and personal preferences. It is important to allow for some time to pass to absorb information and weigh the benefits of each treatment against the possible risks and side effects.

Some people like to get a second opinion about their best treatment option. This can be especially helpful if you have several treatment choices. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel more confident about a treatment plan.

Biological therapy
Biological therapy, or immunotherapy, uses the body's natural immune system responses to fight cancer. One example of biological therapy used in the treatment of bladder cancer includes intravesical biological therapy. Intravesical biological therapy involves inserting live, weakened bacteria into the bladder via a catheter to stimulate the immune system to kill cancer cells in the bladder. After this solution is held in the bladder for about 2 hours, it is released. Biological therapy is most often used for superficial bladder cancer to help prevent the cancer from coming back.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Doctors administer one drug or a combination of drugs via liquid catheter or directly into the veins for this purpose. The drugs mainly affect the cells in the bladder. People diagnosed with bladder cancer can choose chemotherapy alone or combined with surgery, radiation therapy, or both. Usually chemotherapy is an outpatient treatment given at the hospital, clinic, or at the doctor's office. However, depending on which drugs are given and a person’s general health, a short hospital stay may be required.

It is important to eat well and drink plenty of liquids during cancer therapy to maintain healthy weight and keep up strength. But eating well can be difficult during bladder cancer treatment. You may not feel like eating when uncomfortable or tired or the side effects of treatment (lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, etc.) can turn you off food. Foods can even taste different after some types of treatments. For this reason, you may want to seek the help of a dietician or ask your doctor for ways to maintain a healthy diet.

Follow-up testing
It’s important to note that bladder cancer often recurs. Because of this, follow-up testing is often required for years after successful treatment. The specific tests a person undergoes and how often will depend on the type of bladder cancer, stage of cancer, and treatment received among other factors.


Your doctor may suggest making certain changes in lifestyle choices and behaviours as part of a treatment plan. These lifestyle changes for bladder cancer treatment may include:

  • avoiding exposure to chemicals (especially in the workplace) 
  • stop smoking

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Like surgery, radiation therapy is a local therapy that targets specific cancer cells within the bladder. Radiation therapy can be used before surgery to shrink the tumor. Others applications include post-surgery treatments to kill cancer cells that may remain. Sometimes, patients who cannot have surgery have radiation therapy instead. Doctors use two types of radiation therapy to treat bladder cancer:

External radiation – During external radiation, a large machine outside the body aims radiation at the tumor area.

Internal radiation - During internal radiation, the doctor places a small container of a radioactive substance (radioactive implant) into the bladder through the urethra or through an incision in the abdomen. Once the implant is removed, no radioactivity is left in the body

Surgery is a common treatment for bladder cancer. The goal of surgery may be to relieve urinary blockage or other symptoms caused by the cancer, or to remove the bladder completely. The type of surgery depends largely on the stage and grade of the tumor. Your doctor can review each type of surgery in detail and discuss which is most suitable. Possible surgeries for bladder cancer include:

Radical cystectomy - During this procedure, doctors remove the entire bladder, the nearby lymph nodes, part of the urethra, and the nearby organs that may contain cancer cells. This type of surgery is most commonly recommended during cases of invasive bladder cancer.

Segmental cystectomyDoctors may remove only part of the bladder during this procedure, most frequently recommended when a person is diagnosed with low-grade cancer that has invaded the bladder wall in just one area.

Transurethral resection (TUR) - This option is used to treat early bladder cancer with transurethral resection. During TUR, the doctor inserts a cystoscope into the bladder through the urethra and uses a tool with a small wire loop on the end to remove the cancer and to burn away any remaining cancer cells with an electric current. Chemotherapy or biological therapy may be recommended as complimentary therapies after a transurethral resection.

<< PREVIOUS:Staging