Bladder Cancer Treatment Options

Bladder cancer is a common type of cancer in the United States. Over 70,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. While instances of bladder cancer are high in the nation, treatment options are considered very effective when the cancer is diagnosed early. In later stages, many treatment options are still available, but their effectiveness diminishes as the cancer progresses.

Several risk factors exist for the development of bladder cancer, the highest risk is smoking. The toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke may cause bladder cancer, but many other toxic chemicals also increase the risk. One new chemical linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer is a commonly prescribed diabetes medication called Actos®. Studies in the United States and France show that Actos®, and other medications containing pioglitazone, may cause bladder cancer when taken in high dosages or for over twelve months.

Standard Bladder Cancer Treatments

Once an individual develops bladder cancer, several common treatment options can be used to rid the body of the cancerous cells. Most cases of bladder cancer are first treated through surgery. After the surgery, there are typically follow-up treatments to destroy any remaining cancer.


The four methods of bladder cancer surgery are as follows:

  • Transurethral Resection (TUR) with fulguration – In this surgery, a thin tube known as a cystoscope is inserted into the urethra until it reaches the bladder. A rod is then inserted through the tube. Finally, the tumor is burned away by an electrical wire loop on the end of the rod.
  • Segmental cystectomy – This type of surgery is used to remove a section of the bladder containing the tumor. It is used for early-stage tumors and, after the surgery the patient may still urinate normally.
  • Radical cystectomy – This is a form of surgery in which the bladder and other nearby organs affected by the cancer are removed. Other organs removed by this procedure include the uterus and ovaries, in women, and the prostate and seminal vesicles in men.
  • Urinary diversion – This surgery is performed when a large portion of the bladder, or the entire bladder, is removed. Urine must be expelled from the body in an alternate manner.


The most popular treatments include:

  • Biologic therapy – Biologic therapy is a form of treatment that affects the patient’s immune system, making it more efficient in fighting cancer. It uses a combination of antibodies and vaccines that boost the body’s natural defenses against cancer.
  • Chemotherapy – This standard form of bladder cancer treatment uses one or more drugs to either destroy the cancerous cells or prevent them from reproducing. The drugs may be taken by mouth or injected. If injected, they may be injected systemically or directly into the tumorous area.
  • Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy is the use of x-rays, or other forms of radiation, to kill cancerous cells. Radiation may be applied externally through a machine or a radioactive substance may be applied internally next to the cancerous area.

Recent Bladder Cancer Treatment Innovations

While traditional treatments are sufficient for many of those suffering with bladder cancer, two recent treatments have become available to physicians:

  • Chemoprevention – This is similar to chemotherapy, except the drugs are aimed at preventing the cancer from recurring.
  • Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) – PDT uses the combination of a drug and a laser to activate the drug. The drug concentrates itself inside the cancerous cells. A special laser then activates the drug, once it is positioned. This new treatment is still in clinical trials, but is being applauded for its ability to leave healthy tissue undamaged.

Please visit our Actos page if you’ve been diagnosed with bladder cancer after taking Actos.

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