Bladder Cancer Overview

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After Treatment TOPICS

Moving on after treatment for bladder cancer

For some people with bladder cancer, treatment can remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.

It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are leading full lives. To learn more about this, see our document Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence.

For other people, the bladder cancer might never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer as more of a chronic disease can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Our document When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away talks more about this.

Follow-up care

If you have finished treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. People who have had bladder cancer are at high risk of getting a second bladder cancer, so it’s very important to go to all of your follow-up visits. Your doctors will ask questions about any problems you might be having and may do exams, lab tests (such as urine cytology), and imaging tests. These tests are described in the section “How is bladder cancer found?

In people with no signs of cancer left, most doctors will repeat exams every 3 to 6 months to see if the cancer is growing back or if there is a new cancer within the urinary system. Your schedule of exams and tests will depend on the extent and grade of the cancer when it was found, what treatments you’ve had, and other factors. Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice about follow-up tests. The time between doctor visits may be longer after a few years if no new cancers are seen.

Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some can last for weeks or months, but others can last the rest of your life. Tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them. Use this time to ask questions and discuss any concerns you might have.

It is also important to keep your health insurance. While you hope your cancer won’t come back, it could. If it does, you don’t want to have to worry about paying for treatment. Should your cancer come back, our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence can help you manage and cope with this phase of your treatment.

For patients with a urostomy

If you have a urostomy, you may worry about even everyday activities at first. You might have to change some of your daily (and nightly) routines because of changes in how you urinate. Other issues such as having sex might also cause concerns.

It’s normal to have worries and concerns when getting used to such a major change, but it’s important to know there are health care experts with special training to help people with urostomies. They can teach you how to take care of your urostomy and help you cope with the changes it brings. You can also ask the American Cancer Society about programs offering information and support near you. For more information, see our document Urostomy: A Guide.

Seeing a new doctor

At some point after your cancer is found and treated, you may find yourself in the office of a new doctor. It’s important to be able to give your new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get them at some point in the future. Make sure you have this information handy and always keep copies for yourself:

  • A copy of your pathology report from any biopsy or surgery
  • Copies of imaging tests (CT or MRI scans, etc.), which can usually be stored digitally (on a CD, DVD, etc.)
  • If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report
  • If you stayed in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that the doctor wrote when you were sent home
  • If you had radiation treatment, a summary of the type and dose of radiation and when and where it was given
  • If you had chemotherapy or other treatments, a list of your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them

Last Medical Review: 06/23/2014
Last Revised: 06/26/2014