Treatment of bladder cancer

Cancer treatment is given by cancer specialists (oncologists). Some specialize in surgery, some in radiation therapy and others in chemotherapy (drugs). These doctors work with the cancer patient to decide on a treatment plan.


Treatment plans are designed to meet the unique needs of each person with cancer. Treatment decisions for bladder cancer are based on:

  • stage of the tumour
  • grade of the tumour
  • location of the tumour
  • the person's overall health

Treatment options for bladder cancer

  • surgery
    • transurethral resection (TUR) with fulguration – most often used for removal of superficial tumours
      • The tumour is removed through a cystoscope.
      • The tumour bed is burned with high-energy electricity using heat or a laser.
    • segmental (partial) cystectomy – removal of the tumour and part of the bladder
    • radical cystectomy – removal of the entire bladder, surrounding fatty tissue and nearby lymph nodes
      • In men, the prostate, seminal vesicles and part of the urethra are also removed.
      • In women, the uterus, cervix, Fallopian tubes, ovaries, front of the vaginal wall and urethra are also removed.
    • reconstructive surgery (urinary diversion) – Sometimes a diversion is created without removing the bladder to relieve blocked urine flow if the cancer has spread or cannot be removed by surgery.
      • ileal conduit
      • Indiana pouch
      • orthotopic neobladder
  • biological therapy
    • intravesical – instilled into the bladder through a urinary catheter
    • most often used to treat superficial tumours
    • bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) most often used
  • chemotherapy
    • intravesical
      • instilled into the bladder through a urinary catheter
      • most often used when treatment with BCG is unsuccessful
    • systemic
      • combination chemotherapy given intravenously
      • may be a treatment option for locally advanced and metastatic bladder cancer
  • radiation therapy
    • external beam radiation therapy
    • brachytherapy
  • follow-up after treatment is finished
    • It is important to have regular follow-up visits, especially in the first 3 years after treatment.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials investigate better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. There are some clinical trials in Canada that are open to people with bladder cancer. For more information, go to Clinical Trials.


See a list of questions to ask your doctor about treatment.


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We can give information about cancer care and support services in Canada only. To find a cancer organization in your country, visit Union for International Cancer Control or International Cancer Information Service Group.