Your bladder is the balloon-shaped organ in your pelvic area that stores urine. Cancer in the bladder usually begins in the cells that make up its lining. Fortunately, most cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed in the early stages, which means treatments are usually successful.
After diagnosis, your doctor will determine your treatment plan based on the type and stage of your bladder cancer. Your overall health and personal preferences will also be taken into account when coming up with your treatment plan.
Surgery is a part of the treatment plan for most cases of bladder cancer. The exact procedure will depend on the stage of your bladder cancer. The most common procedures include:
- Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT): If your cancer is in the early stages and is still confined to the inner layers of the bladder, then this option will most likely be recommended. TURBT is a procedure that involves using a small wire loop inserted into your bladder to burn away cancer cells using an electric current or a high-energy laser. This procedure is usually minimally invasive, but might cause bloody or painful urination for a few days afterwards.
- Partial cystectomy: During this procedure, only the portion of your bladder that contains the cancer cells is removed. This type of procedure is usually not recommended unless the cancer is limited to one area that can easily be removed without harming your bladder’s ability to function properly.
- Radical cystectomy: This is a procedure to remove your entire bladder, as well as the surrounding lymph nodes. For men, this procedure will also usually include removing the prostate and the seminal vesicles. For women, radical cystectomies will also include removing the uterus, ovaries, and part of the vagina.
Also called immunotherapy, biological therapy is a medication that works by signaling your immune system to help fight the cancer cells. This usually involves administering the drug through your urethra and directly into your bladder.
Chemotherapy for bladder cancer usually involves two or more chemotherapy drugs used in combination. They can be administered either intravenously or directly into your bladder through the urethra. Chemotherapy is sometimes used before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
This type of therapy involves using high-energy beams aimed directly at the affected area to destroy cancer cells. Like chemotherapy, radiation therapy can be used before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. Sometimes chemotherapy and radiation are used together in select cases.