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Treating Bladder Cancer

Treatment options for your cancer will vary. Your doctor will consider the stage of the cancer, your health and your treatment preferences before recommending a course of action. Be sure to discuss all your concerns before deciding on which treatment is right for you.

Removing the Tumor

For cancer that is limited to the inner layers of the bladder, TURBT (transurethral resection of bladder tumor) surgery is usually used. There is no cutting of the abdomen and general or spinal anesthesia is used. This minimally invasive procedure is done through the urethra during cystoscopy. A small wire loop is passed through a resectoscope (a rigid type of cystoscope), into the bladder. Then, an electric current is applied to burn away the cancer cells. Some procedures use a laser instead. TURBT can also remove entire tumors that are clearly seen. Other tissues samples from the bladder may also be taken.

Intravesical Immunotherapy/Chemotherapy

Special drugs can be put directly into your bladder (intravesical). These signal your immune system to help fight the cancer cells. It is usually used after TURBT surgery to help kill any remaining cancer cells. The drug is inserted through a catheter (a thin tube inserted through your urethra into the bladder). The catheter is removed and you hold the drug in your bladder for 1 to 2 hours before urinating it out. Generally, you receive weekly treatments.

Removing Part of the Bladder

Although rare, sometimes removing a small section of your bladder that contains cancer cells may be the best course of action. This is called a partial cystectomy. It is best used when the cancer has moved into the muscle wall of the bladder, but is not large and is only in one place. And, by removing this tissue and closing the hole, it will not harm bladder function. On the plus side, the patient keeps his or her bladder and doesn’t need reconstructive surgery. However, the bladder will now hold less urine and you will have to urinate more often. This usually gets better over time. A main concern is the cancer can return in another part of the bladder wall.

Removing the Entire Bladder

When the cancer invades into the deeper, muscle layer of the bladder, a radical cystectomy may be recommended. This surgery removes the whole bladder and nearby lymph nodes, along with part of the urethra and surrounding tissue. Women may also need to have their uterus removed. This means they will no longer be able to get pregnant. If part of the vagina is also removed, intercourse may become more difficult. Men also have their prostate removed as part of the surgery. This means they will no longer be able to father a child. Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common secondary effects from the surgery. Another way to collect urine from the kidneys then will be created by the surgeon. This step is called urinary diversion. Two options are currently used for urinary diversion after cystectomy:

  • Abdominal diversion, such as ileal conduit. This redirects your urine into a collection bag (urostomy) outside your body.
  • Urethral diversion to create a “neobladder” in the same place where your bladder was located. The procedure includes various forms of gastrointestinal pouches attached to the urethra to collect your urine.

Compassionate Care

We are focused on delivering state-of-the-art care in a supportive and caring environment. It’s at the center of everything we do at the Global Robotics Institute and AdventHealth Celebration Health. Our team of over 50 top medical professionals works in close partnership with cancer and internal medicine experts. This helps us determine the best treatment options for your bladder cancer. Each person’s case and needs is different. And your treatment may or may not include surgery. But if it does, its good to know it will be performed by some of the top surgeons and medical support staffs in the world.


Chemotherapy (chemo) uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. It may also be used before surgery to reduce the size of tumors to make them easier to remove. Two or more drugs are usually used in chemo for bladder cancer. They are generally given in cycles with rest periods in between. They can be done as an outpatient procedure at a hospital, doctor’s office or at home. Rarely will you need to stay in the hospital for treatment. When the cancer has spread to the bladder muscle or other tissues, the drugs are usually given to you through a vein (intravenously). Although chemo kills fast-growing cancer cells, it can also harm normal cells that divide rapidly. Those in the bone marrow, lining of the mouth and intestines, and hair follicles also divide rapidly. Side effects can vary, mainly by the type and dose of the chemo drugs used

Common Side Effects:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Increased risk of infections
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Fatigue

These usually go away after treatment is finished. Plus, there are ways we can help you minimize side effects.

Less Common Side Effects (usually in hands and feet):

  • Burning sensation
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Weakness

Be sure to let your doctor know of any side effects you have. Some can be treated with drugs. For others, your chemo drugs and treatment may need to be changed or stopped altogether to keep them from getting worse.

Radiation Therapy

Although rarely used for bladder cancer, this treatment uses high-energy beams to target and kill the bladder cancer cells. This radiation is similar to that used for x-rays, but at much higher levels. It is usually used after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells. In rare cases, it is used with chemotherapy when surgery is not an option. Radiation therapy is painless and done in a hospital or clinic. A large machine moves around your body to direct exact bursts of radiation into the bladder area of your abdomen. You will likely go five days a week for several weeks for treatment sessions. Each session lasts about 30 minutes.

Common side effects:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue during the therapy period

Be sure to let your doctor and support team know of any side effects you have. They can help you treat or control these side effects.

AdventHealth Cancer Institute

Our team works closely with the internationally recognized and respected AdventHealth Cancer Institute (FHCI). In fact, the premier treatment center treats more cancer patients than any health care center in the state. With FHCI, you’ll have access to some of the most experienced and knowledgeable cancer experts in the world. Learn more.

After Treatment

Patient Follow-up

Our team is fully committed to your care after treatment or surgery to help ensure the best possible outcomes. Bladder cancer frequently reoccurs, so we will want to keep a close eye on you. We will likely recommend being examined three or four times a year. These may include cystectomies and other tests. However, they will lessen over time to about once per year if everything continues to check out okay. One of the best things you can do is maintain a healthy eating plan and exercise regularly.