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Follow-up after treatment for bladder cancer
Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for bladder cancer is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists) and the family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.
Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:
- blood in the urine (called hematuria)
- the need to urinate often (called urinary frequency)
- an intense need to urinate (called urinary urgency)
- burning or pain during urination
- pain in the rectum, anus, pelvis or flank (the side of the body between the abdomen and back)
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
The chance of bladder cancer recurring (coming back) is greatest within 2 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time.
Schedule for follow-up visits
Follow-up visits for bladder cancer are usually scheduled:
- every 3 months for the first 2 years
- every 3 months to every 6–12 months after the first 2 years
During follow-up visits
During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you are coping. Your doctor may do a complete physical exam, including:
- feeling the abdomen for a lump or to find out if the liver is larger than normal
- feeling the groin, abdomen and neck for enlarged lymph nodes
Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:
- a cystoscopy to look for any recurrence in the bladder
- a CT scan
- an MRI
- a PET scan
- an ultrasound
- blood chemistry tests to check the function of the kidneys after a radical cystectomy
Imaging of the chest, abdomen and pelvis may be done at regular intervals to look for any recurrence. If a recurrence is found during follow-up, your healthcare team will assess you to determine the best treatment options.
Find out more about these tests and procedures.
Questions to ask about follow-up
To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.
Providing rides to cancer treatment
For more than 50 years, the Canadian Cancer Society’s transportation program has enabled patients to focus their energy on fighting cancer and not on worrying about how they will get to treatment.