How is bladder cancer treated?
After bladder cancer is found and staged, your doctor will talk to you about your treatment options. There is a lot for you to think about when choosing the best way to treat or manage your cancer. There may be more than one treatment to choose from. You may feel that you need to make a decision quickly. But give yourself time to absorb the information you have learned. Talk to your doctor. Look at the list of questions in the section “What are some questions I can ask my doctor about bladder cancer?” to get some ideas. Then add your own.
If time permits, you might want to get a second opinion about the best treatment option for you. Doing so can give you more information and help you feel better about the treatment plan you choose. You will want to weigh the benefits of each treatment against side effects and risks.
The main types of treatment for bladder cancer are:
Sometimes, more than one of type of treatment might be used. Surgery, alone or along with other treatments, is used in nearly all cases.
You might have different types of doctors on your treatment team. The types of doctors who treat bladder cancers include:
- Urologists: surgeons who treat diseases of the urinary system
- Radiation oncologists: doctors who treat cancer with radiation
- Medical oncologists: doctors who treat cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy
Other experts might be part of your treatment team as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and others. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.
Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. You can also call our clinical trials matching service at 1-800-303-5691 for a list of studies that meet your medical needs, or see “Clinical Trials” to learn more.
Considering complementary and alternative methods
You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.
Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.
Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See Complementary and Alternative Medicine to learn more.
Help getting through cancer treatment
Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists on call 24 hours a day, every day.
Last Medical Review: 06/23/2014
Last Revised: 01/21/2016