Bladder Cancer Treatment and Support

Treatment options for bladder cancer depend on the type, grade and stage of cancer, as well as your overall health and preferences.

When diagnosed early, the success rate for treatment of bladder cancer is 95%.

At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, you’ll receive personalized bladder cancer care from some of the nation’s leading specialists. We focus on you, your treatment and recovery. Your bladder cancer care is customized to include the most advanced therapies and the best treatments.

How Is Bladder Cancer Treated?

You and your doctor will talk through all your treatment options. Often, you may need more than one type of treatment. When deciding on treatment, consider:

  • Treatment goals
  • Age
  • Other health conditions
  • Cancer stage and grade
  • Likelihood of success
  • Side effects

Surgery

  • Bladder cancer surgery may include removal of cancerous tissue, including part or all of the bladder, and reconstructive procedures to allow urine to leave the body.
  • Surgery may be done using traditional open surgery or laparoscopic robotic surgery – a less invasive method.
  • In general, patients who get robotic surgery recover more quickly with less bleeding, and shorter hospital stays. However, operations may take longer and cost more using robotic surgery.

Radiation Therapy

  • Conformal 3D and IMRT radiotherapy are used to destroy cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy is often the primary treatment if surgery isn't an option.

Immunotherapy

  • Immunotherapy, including Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), triggers the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.
  • It is most effective in the early stages of bladder cancer.
  • After the initial six-week treatment, your doctor may recommend you continue treatments for up to three years.

Chemotherapy

  • Chemotherapy is used to treat tumors in the lining of the bladder.
  • Chemotherapy combined with bladder removal increases a patient’s chance of successful treatment.

Clinical trials

  • You may consider taking part in a research study for a new type of treatment to test if it’s safe and effective. See current clinical trials.

No treatment

  • Some people might weigh their options and choose not to treat their cancer. If you choose this, it’s important to talk to your doctor about supportive care for pain and other symptoms.

What Are the Side Effects of Bladder Cancer Treatment?

Banner MD Anderson is here to help you understand your treatment options, including potential side effects and how to manage them. The side effects of bladder cancer surgery depend on the procedure.  Common physical side effects of bladder cancer treatments include:

  • Bladder irritation
  • Bladder/groin pain
  • Long healing time
  • Infection
  • Mild bleeding and discomfort after surgery
  • Urine leaks
  • Fever/chills
  • Loss of sexual feeling – often fixed with further treatment

Cancer affects more than just the body. It can have a profound impact on your emotional and mental wellbeing. That’s why we offer a full range of care options including psycho-oncology and integrative therapies like massage and yoga. Learn more about our comprehensive cancer care.

What If the Cancer Comes Back?

Bladder cancer has one of the highest reoccurrence rates of any cancer. Most of the time, recurrence is not life-threatening. If you have recurrent cancer, you may feel strong emotions. Talking to a mental health professional trained in cancer services can help.

What If Treatment Doesn’t Work?

Sometimes, treatment does not cure cancer. Being diagnosed with terminal cancer is stressful and difficult to process. We’re here to support you and your family at every step of your cancer journey. Patients with advanced cancer may want to consider palliative care for additional support and comfort.