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Treating Localized, Non-Muscular Bladder Cancer

In most cases, patients will be diagnosed with noninvasive bladder cancer. This early-stage diagnosis offers patients the best chance to eliminate cancer cells before they spread beyond the bladder.

Our expert bladder cancer team specializes in treatments to remove tumors from the bladder and prevent future cancer from developing.

Transurethral Resection of Bladder Tumor (TURBT)

For early-stage, noninvasive bladder cancer, transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is the most common treatment. TURBT is a quick, outpatient procedure performed by a urologist. During TURBT, a scope with a special wire loop is inserted through the urethra into the bladder and your urologist uses the tool to remove tumors and cancerous tissue from the bladder wall.

After receiving TURBT, your physician might recommend immunotherapy and/or chemotherapy treatments to prevent recurrence or subsequent cancer.

Intravesical Immunotherapy

Intravesical Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a biologic therapy that activates the patient’s immune system and triggers a response to fight cancer. For bladder cancer, a common immunotherapy after surgery is Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) Therapy. During BCG therapy, a catheter is used to fill the patient's bladder with the drug, and remains there for roughly two hours. BCG therapy stimulates an immune system response to attack and kill cancer cells. Newer innovative more selective and targeted immunotherapy agents are currently being tested at a handful of centers worldwide, including The University of Chicago.

Intravesical Chemotherapy

After removing the tumor(s), your physician may suggest intravesicular chemotherapy, which is a technique that places chemotherapy drugs directly into the bladder through a catheter. For patients with early-stage bladder cancer, chemotherapy can be used in combination with TURBT to prevent cancer recurrence and eradicate any remaining cancer cells in the bladder.

Advanced Delivery for Intravesical Therapies

Our physicians are using innovative treatment delivery systems to enhance the success of intravesical therapies such as chemotherapy. For instance, we are using a system that slowly releases chemotherapy into the bladder, prolonging contact with tumors and improving the effectiveness of the treatment. Another advancement in chemotherapy delivery uses specialized solutions that enter the bladder in a liquid state and transform into a gel at body temperate. This allows consistent, sustained exposure of the drug to cancerous tissue. We are also implementing warming systems to distribute chemotherapies that are heated to 43 degrees Celsius, enabling the drugs to penetrate bladder cancer cells more effectively.

Active Surveillance for Recurrent Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer, particularly noninvasive, has a high rate of recurrence, so actively watching for any signs of cancer is crucial to prevent future complications. After completing treatment, patients will undergo a period of active monitoring, typically several times a year for the first three to four years, and then yearly after that. During bladder surveillance, physicians will be watching for signs of tumor growth and cancerous tissue. This could include cystoscopy, additional biopsies, immunotherapy or imaging tests to closely monitor any changes within the bladder.