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.