There are several treatment options for bladder cancer. It may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy or a combination of treatments depending on the stage of the disease.
Transurethral Resection of Bladder Tumor (TURBT) – This surgical procedure is done completely through a scope. It is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, but does require a general or spinal anesthetic. Through the scope, the bladder tumor is ‘scraped’ from the inside of the bladder. Cystectomy/ Partial Cystectomy – Depending on the depth of the cancer in the bladder, part or all of the organ may be removed. With complete bladder removal, the urine is diverted. Both continent (neo-bladder, catheterizable pouches) as well as non-continent (ileal loop) urinary diversions can be performed. TUCC surgeons perform open and robotic cystectomies for bladder cancer patients.
Chemotherapy drugs are used to destroy cancer cells. For bladder cancer patients, these drugs may be adminstered orally, intravenously or infused into the bladder through the urethra. Chemotherapy may be administered to treat bladder cancer before or after surgery. Side effects of chemotherapy are common and may include: abdominal pain, anemia, bladder irritation, blurred vision, excessive bleeding or bruising, fatigue, headaches, infection, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, weakness
Radiation Therapy, available at TUCC, destroys cancer cells through high-energy x-rays. In the case of bladder cancer, treatment may be administered before or after surgery, or as a primary form of treatment in non-surgical patients. External beam radiation directs a carefully targeted beam of radiation to the bladder and other selected tissues. Side effects of radiation therapy may include inflammation of the rectum, incontinence, skin irritation, hematuria, fibrosis and impotence.
Immunotherapy is a form of treatment used to enhance the body’s immune system. In the case of superficial bladder cancer, a vaccine is infused through the urethra into the bladder once a week for six weeks with the hope of stimulating the immune system to destroy the cancerous cells. Side effects of immunotherapy may include flu-like symptoms, cystitis and prostatitis. Because bladder cancer can have a high recurrence rate, a urine cytology and cytoscopy are performed on a patient every three months for the first two years following treatment. The procedures are then performed every six months for the next two years before being performed yearly.