Bladder cancer affects nearly 400,000 people per year worldwide and claims more than 140,000 lives every year. It ranks in the Top 10 most common cancers and affects men three to four times greater than women. The bladder, a hollow bag-like organ about the size of a grapefruit located in the lower abdomen primary function is to store urine. Cancer can form in the bladder tissue and affect function as well as metastasize to other areas of the body.

Treatment Options

Treatment options depend on the severity, or stage, of the cancer and ranges from zero to four. Once diagnosed, there are four standard treatment options for bladder cancer:

  • Surgery, also known as a cystectomy
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunological or Biologic Therapy

Bladder Cancer Surgery

A surgical solution to bladder cancer involves the removal of all or part of the bladder and possibly the removal of nearby cancerous lymph nodes and organs. Should bladder removal prove necessary, the surgeon will create a new system for urine storage and drainage.

A cystectomy is traditionally performed using an open approach technique. In other words, the surgeon will make a large abdominal incision to access the bladder. Leveraging another technique known as conventional laparoscopy, may be less invasive but it limits the doctor’s dexterity, field of vision and control.

If your doctor recommends surgery, you may be a candidate for a minimally invasive robotic procedure utilizing a da Vinci system. Robotic surgical systems provide the surgeon with precise control through a series of miniscule incisions. With this enhanced vision, precision, dexterity and control; your physician will be able to excise the cancerous tissue with less blood loss, less pain, and a faster recovery time for the patient.
Because surgery is specific to each unique patient, success depends on other factors such as the patient’s overall condition and complexity of the procedure. It is imperative to have a frank discussion with your doctor about all treatment options, risks, and benefits.

Radiation Therapy

In addition to surgery, radiation may be utilized to treat bladder cancer. Radiation treatment uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy: external and internal. The external method uses a machine outside the body to bombard the cancer with radiation; whereas, internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters placed directly in contact with or in close proximity to the diseased cells. The method used will depend upon the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Chemo Therapy

Chemotherapy is a widely known and effective cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemo acts upon the diseased cells by either by killing them or stopping them from dividing. When systemic chemotherapy is used, drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body. In cases of regional chemotherapy treatment drugs are deposited directly into the cerebrospinal fluid or an organ the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those specific areas. Intravesical chemo involves inserting a tube into the urethra to access the bladder directly.

Immunological Therapy

Biologic, or immunological therapy is a treatment that leverages the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer. Naturally occurring compounds manufactured by the body or synthesized in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer and has been proven effective in many types of bladder cancers.