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Health Journey Support | Treatment Options for Bladder Cancer

The most common type of bladder cancer, called urothelial carcinoma or transitional cell carcinoma, is a disease where cancer cells form in the tissue lining the inside of the bladder. This brochure will help you understand some of the available treatment options.

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Treatment Options for Bladder Cancer

You or someone you care about may have been recently diagnosed with bladder cancer. This video will help you understand some of the available treatment options.

What is Bladder Cancer?

The most common type of bladder cancer, called urothelial carcinoma or transitional cell carcinoma, is a disease where cancer cells form in the tissue lining the inside of the bladder.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Treatments for Bladder Cancer

Treatments for bladder cancer may include one or more of the following:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Surgery

There are two main types of surgery for bladder cancer.

The first type is called transurethral resection of bladder tumor, or TURBT, with fulguration, for early stage cancer. During this procedure, a lighted tube, called a cystoscope, will be inserted into your bladder.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Then, the tumor will be removed with a wire loop.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Remaining tumor tissue may be burned away in a process called fulguration.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

The second type of surgery, called cystectomy, is for cancer that has spread into the bladder wall. During a partial cystectomy, the part of your bladder wall containing a small tumor will be removed.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

In a radical cystectomy, all of your bladder will be removed if the tumor is large or is in more than one part of the bladder. Nearby tissue, such as lymph nodes, will also be removed.

In men, the prostate and seminal vesicles will be removed.

In women, the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and part of the vagina will often be removed.

If your bladder is removed, a piece of your intestine can be used as a passageway for urine to out of your body.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

It will drain through an opening in your abdomen and into a small bag.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Or, the intestine can be shaped into a small pouch to store the urine before it passes through the opening in your abdomen. In this case, you will put a small tube, called a catheter, into the opening to empty urine from the pouch.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Or, if your urethra was preserved, a new bladder can be built from a piece of intestine so urine can pass out of your body in the usual way.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Radiation Therapy

Another treatment option is radiation therapy. It uses radiation to kill the cancer cells or keep them from growing.

External beam radiation uses a machine outside the body that aims radiation at the cancer.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive source that gives off radiation. The radioactive source is put inside the body, into or near the cancer.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses certain drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. These drugs may be administered intravenously to treat cancer cells throughout the whole body, or via a catheter to treat cancer cells inside the bladder.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy helps your immune system fight cancer.

Cancer can sometimes hide from the immune cells that attack them. For example, both cancer and immune cells may have proteins, called checkpoint proteins. If these proteins attach, the immune cell won't attack the cancer cell.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Some immunotherapy drugs for bladder cancer block the checkpoint proteins from attaching to each other. As a result, the immune cell can attack and destroy the cancer cell.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

Another example of immunotherapy is called BCG. It's made of a type of bacteria in a solution. BCG is put inside your bladder, where it sets off a response that kills cancer cells.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br
Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

If you have questions about bladder cancer or any medications you have been prescribed, talk to your doctor.

Treatment Options Bladder Cancer Br

It is important to take your medications as directed, and report any side effects you may have.

The information in this handout has been created and peer reviewed by graduate-level medical illustrators, followed by reviews from medical subject experts, either physicians or PhDs on the Nucleus Medical Review Board, to ensure medical accuracy and audience level appropriateness.

The handout is intended to supplement the information you receive from your healthcare provider and should never be considered personal medical advice. Always contact your healthcare provider with health questions and concerns.