Bladder Cancer Treatments

Bladder Cancer Treatments

What types of bladder cancer treatments are available?

Knowing the stage and grade of your tumor helps your doctor decide which methods are most suitable for treating your cancer. It is important to remember that bladder cancer patients must expect to be closely monitored by their urologists, with regularly scheduled cystoscopies and urine cytology, as bladder tumors often recur. Early detection is crucial to a good long-term outcomes.

Ta papillary tumors are usually low grade (most closely resemble normal cells). Even though a large majority will recur multiple times after the initial diagnosis and removal, 85-90% will never invade the bladder wall and become life-threatening. Further treatment beyond removal may not be necessary, but regular follow ups are required.

Although carcinoma in situ or CIS is non-invasive, as the tumor has not grown into the lamina propria (the layer of blood vessels and cells that is situated between the bladder lining and the muscle wall), it is more aggressive than Ta non-invasive tumors. Because it is more aggressive, CIS will likely be treated with more aggressive therapies, including intravesical immunotherapy (BCG). Once the tumor has invaded the lamina propria, it is considered an invasive tumor with the potential of spreading through the muscle wall and ultimately affecting organs that border the bladder (prostate, uterus, etc.) or other organs such as the lung, bone, and liver. Intravesical therapy and surgery may be considered. If invasion of the muscle is seen on the biopsy, the tumor is at least stage T2, in which case more aggressive treatments (surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy) are recommended.

There are many lymph nodes that also surround the bladder. Lymph nodes are small glands that store the white blood cells that help to fight disease throughout the body. Cancer cells from invasive bladder tumors may appear in the lymph nodes. Although they can often only be seen with a microscope, they may be seen on scans as enlarged lymph nodes – cancer cells in the lymph nodes indicate that the tumor has spread and will influence the management of the bladder cancer patient. Chemotherapy may be suggested.

Main treatment procedures:

What are clinical practice guidelines?

Clinical practice guidelines (or simply “guidelines”) are recommendations on how to diagnose and treat disease, like bladder cancer. Developed by experts after reviewing the research that improves the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of cancer care, guidelines help doctors find the best treatment options for different stages and grades of bladder cancer. Some recent Bladder Cancer Treatment Guidelines are available to view.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are not thought of as standard medical care. Less is known about many CAM therapies and how they may benefit bladder cancer patients. During the 2021 Bladder Cancer Think Tank, a discussion led by co-chairs Drs. Sanjay Reddy, MD, FACP, and Viraj Master, MD, PhD, FACS, addressed issues related to diet, exercise, supplements, and herbs, including safety concerns, mind-body techniques, non-pharmacologic tools for symptom management, and the role of medical cannabis in treating bladder cancer. View the recording of this session here.

Sometimes these treatments can have side effects, and cancer diagnosis can have an impact on the patient and their loved ones. Learn more about Cancer Survivorship and Well-Being.


Information and services provided by the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) are for informational purposes only. The information and services are not intended to be substitutes for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are ill, or suspect that you are ill, seek professional medical attention immediately! BCAN does not recommend or endorse any specific physicians, treatments, procedures or products even though they may be mentioned on this site.