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Bladder cancer

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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
  • cytology
  • 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.

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