Treatment for bladder cancer will vary from patient to patient. The best treatment for an individual patient will depend on the type and stage of cancer, the health of the individual, and the patient’s personal preferences.
There are a variety of surgeries that may be performed as treatment options. If the bladder cancer is found only in the inner lining of the bladder, transurethral resection surgery is done. The doctor will insert a small loop into the urethra and through to the bladder. The loop will then burn the cancer cells by means of an electrical current.
Another surgery is called partial cystectomy. The doctor will remove the part of the bladder that has the cancer cells. This type of surgery is a good option if the cancer is contained in one area of the bladder and can be removed without disturbing bladder function.
A radical cystectomy may be considered if the cancer has spread into the layers of the bladder wall. The doctor will remove the entire bladder and surrounding lymph nodes. For men, it may mean the removal of the prostate. For women, it may mean the removal of the ovaries and uterus.
If the doctor and patient agree to a radical cystectomy, another surgery will be needed to create a way for the urine to leave the body. One option to achieve this is for the doctor to use a piece of the patient’s intestine to form a tube. The tube will link the kidneys to the outside of the body. The urine will flow into a urostomy bag worn on the abdomen.
Another option is for the doctor to use a piece of the patient’s intestine to make a reservoir in the body to hold the urine. The patient can then use a catheter a few times a day to drain the reservoir through the abdomen.
Radiation is another treatment option. External beam radiation may be used. This means a machine outside the body aims radiation to the cancerous area of the bladder. Local radiation may also be used. This type of radiation places a small piece of radioactive material into the affected area of the bladder. Many times radiation is used after surgery to rid the body of any remaining cancer cells.
Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to rid the body of cancer cells. Drugs can be administered through the mouth, through a vein, or placed directly in the bladder. Chemotherapy may be used after a surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. It can also be a treatment before surgery. This may cause the tumor to shrink and allow the patient to benefit from a less invasive surgery.
At times surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are used in combination with each other to rid the bladder of cancer and lower the risk of it reoccurring. The patient should talk with his doctor about what treatment of bladder cancer is best for him.