Chemotherapy uses anticancer, or cytotoxic, drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes used to treat bladder cancer. Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the drugs, doses and schedules of chemotherapy. You may also receive other treatments.
Chemotherapy is given for different reasons. You may have chemotherapy:
Chemotherapy for bladder cancer is usually intravesical. Intravesical means the drugs are placed directly into the bladder. Chemotherapy for bladder cancer is sometimes systemic. Systemic means that the drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach and destroy cancer cells all over the body, including those that may have broken away from the primary tumour in the bladder.
During intravesical chemotherapy, the doctor passes a tube, or catheter, through the urethra and into the bladder. The chemotherapy drug is given directly into the bladder through the catheter. The drug is left in the bladder for 1–2 hours to give it time to act on the cancer cells in the lining of the bladder. The treatment is repeated once a week for several weeks. Intravesical chemotherapy may be given once or several times each month for up to a year.
Intravesical chemotherapy may be given:
The most common drugs used in intravesical chemotherapy to treat bladder cancer are:
Systemic chemotherapy is given through a needle or catheter (tube) into a vein (intravenous, or IV). It may be used to treat cancer that has spread to organs and structures near the bladder (called locally advanced cancer) and cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (called metastatic cancer). A combination of chemotherapy drugs is given because together they are more effective than any single drug.
The most common chemotherapy drug combinations used as systemic therapy to treat bladder cancer are:
Details on specific drugs change quite regularly. Find out more about sources of drug information and where to get details on specific drugs.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.