Bladder Cancer

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Treating Bladder Cancer TOPICS

How is bladder cancer treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

Once your cancer has been diagnosed and staged, there is a lot to think about before you and your doctor choose a treatment plan. You may feel that you must make a decision quickly, but it is important to give yourself time to absorb the information you have just learned. Ask your cancer care team questions. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “What should you ask your doctor about bladder cancer?

You will want to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible risks and side effects. The best treatment for you will depend on the type and stage of your bladder cancer as well as your general health, age, and personal preferences.

If time permits, you might want to get a second opinion about your best treatment option. This can be especially helpful if you have several treatment choices. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan you choose.

The main types of treatment for cancer of the bladder are:

Sometimes, more than one of type of treatment might be used. Surgery, alone or with other treatments, is used in nearly all cases.

Surgery can often remove early stage bladder tumors. But a major concern in people with early-stage bladder cancer is that new cancers often form in other parts of the bladder over time. Removing the entire bladder (known as a radical cystectomy) is one way to avoid this, but it can have major side effects. If the entire bladder is not removed, other treatments may be given to try to reduce the risk of new cancers. Whether or not other treatments are given, close follow-up is needed to look for signs of new cancers in the bladder.

Depending on your options, you can have different types of doctors on your treatment team. The types of doctors who treat bladder cancers include:

  • Urologists: surgeons who specialize in treating diseases of the urinary system and male reproductive system
  • Radiation oncologists: doctors who treat cancer with radiation therapy
  • Medical oncologists: doctors who treat cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy

Other specialists might be part of your treatment team as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.

The next few sections describe the different types of treatment for bladder cancer. This is followed by a discussion of the most common treatment options based on the stage of the cancer.

Last Medical Review: 02/26/2014
Last Revised: 02/25/2015