Once the doctor determines the stage of the cancer, he or she will be able to plan the best treatment. The treatment of bladder cancer depends on many factors, such as the location of the tumor in the bladder, whether the tumor has invaded the muscle layer or tissues outside the bladder, whether the tumor has spread to other parts of the body, the grade of the tumor and your age and general health.
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, or you may ask for a referral. You may want to see a urologist, a surgeon who specializes in treating problems in the urinary tract. Other specialists who treat bladder cancer include urologic oncologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists.
Types of Surgery
Transurethral resection (TUR): The doctor inserts a cystoscope into the bladder through your urethra. The cutting tool is slipped through the cystoscope. A small wire loop at the end of the tool removes the cancer and burns away remaining cancer cells with an electric current. TUR may need to be repeated. For a few days after TUR, you may have some blood in your urine and difficulty or pain when passing urine.
Open Surgery: The surgeon makes an incision into your body to remove the cancer from your bladder. In a partial cystectomy, the surgeon removes the tumor, the part of the bladder containing the tumor and nearby lymph nodes. After part of the bladder is removed, you may not be able to hold as much urine in your bladder as before surgery. For bladder cancer that has invaded the muscle layer (Stage II or some Stage III), the most common type of surgery is radical cystectomy. The surgeon removes the entire bladder, nearby lymph nodes and part of the urethra. In addition, the surgeon usually removes the prostate from a man and may remove the uterus from a woman. Other nearby tissues may also be removed. When the entire bladder is removed, the surgeon makes another way for urine to be collected from the kidneys and stored. You may wear a flat bag outside the body under your clothes, or the surgeon may use part of your intestine to create a pouch inside the body.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be used to treat bladder cancer before or after surgery. You may receive chemotherapy in different ways: Into the bladder: The doctor inserts a tube (catheter) through your urethra to put a liquid drug in the bladder. This treatment may be given once a week for six weeks. By mouth: Some drugs are pills that you can swallow. Into a vein: For cancer that has invaded the muscle of the bladder or spread to other tissues, drugs are usually given by vein. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout your body.
Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles, which include a treatment period and a rest period. Chemotherapy kills fast-growing cancer cells, but the drugs can also harm normal cells, making you more likely to get infections, bruise/bleed easily, feel weak or tired, feel nauseous, develop a poor appetite and may cause hair loss.
People with early bladder cancer may receive a treatment called biological therapy. The treatment is BCG solution, which is a liquid containing weakened bacteria. The bacteria help your body’s natural defenses to kill cancer cells in the bladder. After TUR, the doctor inserts a tube through your urethra to put the liquid treatment in your bladder for about two hours. BCG solution is usually given once a week for six weeks. You may feel unusually tired during the treatment process and the solutions can irritate your bladder. You may experience the urgent need to urinate and urinary frequency, along with pain. You may also have blood in your urine, nausea, a fever or chills.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It may be given after surgery, usually along with chemotherapy, but can also be given instead of surgery or chemotherapy. The radiation comes from a large machine that aims beams of radiation at the bladder area in the abdomen. You’ll go to a hospital or clinic 5 days a week for several weeks to receive radiation therapy. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and extreme fatigue.
If you have taken Actos and have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, contact the attorneys at Levin Simes LLP. Complete the form on this page for a free consultation, or contact us at 1-888-426-4156 or [email protected].