Bladder Cancer Treatments
At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we develop a treatment plan based on your individual needs and your particular type of bladder cancer. Our multidisciplinary team of bladder cancer specialists — medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, urologic surgical oncologists, pathologists and radiologists — collaborates to tailor a treatment plan specifically suited to your needs.
Our bladder cancer specialists meet weekly at a tumor conference, where they discuss your care and compare it to nationally established guidelines. This multidisciplinary team of specialists creates and coordinates treatment strategies for each individual.
Treatments for bladder cancer
We provide the most advanced medical and surgical treatment options for those with bladder cancer. As the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in the Kansas City region, we offer the most advanced reconstructive surgical procedures to ensure we preserve your quality of life.
We also encourage you to ask your physician about taking part in clinical research trials. Through clinical research trials, we evaluate potential new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating bladder cancer.
Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for most bladder cancers. The type of surgery done depends on the extent of the cancer. It also depends on your choices based on the short term and long-term side effects of some kinds of surgery.
Our team of bladder cancer specialists will develop a personalized treatment plan after diagnosis and screening to determine the stage of your tumor as well as other factors. These considerations include whether your bladder cancer is muscle invasive or non-muscle invasive, the size of your tumor, extent of disease, rate of tumor cell growth and your overall health and preferences.
Transurethral resection of a bladder tumor is the first-line surgical treatment to diagnose, stage and treat visible bladder tumors. It is performed by visualizing the bladder through the urethra and removing tissue by electrocautery or sharp dissection.
With intravesical therapy, you’ll receive an infusion of chemotherapy into the bladder through a pliable catheter that is inserted through the urethra. The chemotherapy remains in the bladder for up to 2 hours as it interacts with the cells lining the inside of the bladder. The procedure is performed after TURBT, with a goal of killing any remaining cancer cells.
Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (also known as BCG treatment) is a form of immunotherapy we can use to treat some forms of bladder cancer. Immunotherapy works by encouraging the immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells. Following surgery to remove the cancer, this treatment can help prevent the cancer from returning. We may also use BCG treatment as a type of intravesical immunotherapy to treat some early forms of bladder cancer.
Your treatment team may suggest chemotherapy for bladder cancer, either prior to surgery to shrink a tumor or following surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain. Chemotherapy can also benefit those who have radiation therapy for bladder cancer.
When bladder cancer is invasive, or non-muscle invasive bladder cancer failed to respond to treatment, your surgeon may need to remove the bladder. A radical cystectomy removes the entire bladder and nearby lymph nodes. In men, the prostate and seminal vesicles are also removed. In women, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix and a small part of the vagina are also removed. Typically, treatment includes chemotherapy before or after a cystectomy.
Radiation can be part of bladder cancer treatment. It may be the primary form of treatment for people who can’t have surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation is integral when treating advanced cancers that have spread beyond the bladder, and it is often given along with chemotherapy to help the radiation work better. Radiation is recommended for people who are not candidates for surgery or who have locally advanced disease.
Clinical trials for bladder cancer
We encourage you to take part in clinical research trials. Our own bladder cancer investigators initiate many of these studies, and they design and implement the research as we work to provide the most advanced bladder cancer care. Through these trials, we evaluate potential new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating bladder cancer.
Life after bladder cancer
The University of Kansas Cancer Center also offers all cancer patients an array of support services during treatment and recovery:
- A specially trained enterostomal therapist will educate you if you have reconstructive bladder surgery.
- Physical therapists work with you to help you regain strength and movement after surgery and other treatments.
- Social workers assist you and your family with issues ranging from financial planning to home healthcare.
- National Cancer Institute (part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health)
- Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network
- American Cancer Society
- The Albert Institute for Bladder Cancer Care and Research