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What are the Different Bladder Cancer Treatments?

By M. DePietro
Updated May 17, 2024
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The exact cause of bladder cancer is not known, however there are certain factors which may put a person at risk. Smoking, having a family history of bladder cancer and chronic bladder infections appear to be risk factors. Symptoms of bladder cancer include painful and frequent urination, blood in the urine and possibly abdominal and back pain. There are several types of bladder cancer treatments available. The type of treatment recommended may depend on several factors, such as the type of bladder cancer and what stage it has been classified as.

Surgery is often done as one of the first bladder cancer treatments. There are a few surgical options depending on the size of the tumor. A transurethral resection is a procedure which uses electric current or a laser to burn the cancer cells. It is usually performed if the tumors are small and not in the bladder wall.

Partial and radial cystectomies are two other types of bladder cancer treatments which may be done. In a partial cystectomy, only part of the bladder is removed. This may be performed if bladder function can be preserved and the tumor is small enough. A radical cystectomy, which involves removing the entire bladder, may be needed if the cancer is considered invasive and is deep in the bladder wall. Both procedures require an abdominal incision and are done under general anesthesia.

If the entire bladder is removed, a urostomy will need to be performed to create a way for the urine to leave the bladder. During a urostomy, the surgeon will connect the kidneys to an opening made in the abdomen. A pouch is used to collect the urine on the outside of the body.

In addition to surgery, other bladder cancer treatments may be recommended. Chemotherapy, which involves administering various combinations of medication to destroy the cancer cells, may be needed. Chemotherapy can be administered directly into the bladder or given by IV. Although chemotherapy can be given prior to surgery to reduce the size of a tumor, it is also administered after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Radiation therapy may also be used alone or with other bladder cancer treatments. An external radiation beam is directed at the bladder in order to destroy the cancer cells. An internal form of radiation called bracytherapy, may also be prescribed. This involves placing a device in the bladder which releases radiation. The prognosis for individuals with bladder cancer varies depending on how early the cancer was found, the age of the patient and response to treatment.

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