How Do You Treat Bladder Cancer?

The main types of treatment for bladder cancer as of 2015 include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and intravesical therapy, according to the American Cancer Society. The treatment plan will be determined by the type and stage of the cancer, the patient's general health and their preference.

Surgery is used in virtually all bladder cancer cases, the American Cancer Society states. Early-stage tumors can usually be removed, but there is a likelihood that they will come back. Some patients opt to have part or all of the bladder removed, but the surgery has complications and patients must still be monitored for cancer. If the bladder is not removed, additional treatment is often required.

Additional treatments include intravesical therapy, a procedure in which the doctor puts medication directly into the bladder through a catheter, the American Cancer Society explains. Both chemotherapy and immunotherapy medications may be used. Immunotherapy is often used a few weeks after early-stage tumors are surgically removed. Receiving chemotherapy in the bladder directly can cut down on side effects that may occur by administering the drug into veins.

Several types of radiation therapy are used depending on the stage of the cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. It can include internal radiation therapy, in which a radioactive substance is inserted into seeds or catheters that are placed near the cancer, or external radiation, in which a machine outside the body targets the cancer. The type of radiation used depends on the cancer's stage.

Treating bladder cancer involves many different medical specialists, according to the American Cancer Society. Radiation oncologists, medical oncologists (who use chemotherapy and other medicines) and urologists, who focus on conditions of the male reproductive system and urinary system, are generally all part of the treatment team. Along with physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, therapists and rehabilitation specialists, the team puts together an individualized treatment plan for each patient. Because each treatment has its own benefits, side effects and risks, the patient's collaboration is crucial in devising a treatment plan.