Bladder Cancer Treatment Options

Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of your bladder, which is a balloon-shaped organ that stores urine located in your pelvic area. Although it can occur at any age, bladder cancer most commonly affects older adults. Most of the time, bladder cancer is diagnosed while it is still in its early stages, which significantly increases the chance of successful treatment. Here are some of the most common treatment options for bladder cancer.

Surgery

There are many different surgical procedures that may be recommended depending on which stage your bladder cancer is in. Some of the most common include: 

  • Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT): If your cancer is still very small and has not yet invaded the wall of your bladder, then you are a good candidate for this procedure, which involves simply removing the tumor. TURBT requires your doctor to pass a small wire loop through a cystoscope and into your bladder where it is used to burn away cancer cells using an electric current or a high-energy laser.
  • Segmental cystectomy: This procedure involves removing your tumor, along with a small portion of your bladder that also contains some cancer cells. This type of surgery is very rarely used since it is only an option if the cancer is limited to a specific area of your bladder that is easily removed without interfering with its normal functioning. 
  • Radical cystectomy: If your cancer has invaded the deeper layers of your bladder wall, then you may require a more serious procedure. A radical cystectomy involves removing your entire bladder, along with all of the surrounding lymph nodes as well. Sometimes surrounding organs are removed too, including the uterus, ovaries, and part of the vagina for women, and the prostate and seminal vesicles for men.
  • Surgery to redirect urine: If you have a radical cystectomy, you will also need a new way for urine to leave your body. There are many different options for accomplishing this, including creating a new tube using a piece of your intestine, using a urostomy bag, inserting a catheter, or a combination of all three.

Immunotherapy

Also known as biological therapy, this is a type of therapy that works by signaling your body’s immune system to help fight off cancer cells. One common biological therapy that is used to treat bladder cancer is bacilli calmette-guerin (BCG) that is typically administered through your urethra directly into the bladder.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment that uses medications to kill cancer cells throughout your entire body. Drugs are usually given intravenously or intravesically (directly into your bladder). Sometimes chemotherapy is used to kill any remaining cancer cells that might be present after surgery or to shrink a tumor before surgery.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is also a common cancer treatment that uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells in a localized area. Radiation therapy is also sometimes used before or after surgery to shrink a tumor or to kill any remaining cancer cells that might be left behind. Sometimes, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used in combination to treat bladder cancer if surgery isn’t an option.

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