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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 specialists, such as your urologist and oncologist, and your 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 (pee) (hematuria)
- a need to urinate more often than usual (frequent urination)
- an intense need to urinate (urgent urination)
- burning or pain during urination
- difficulty urinating
- low back pain or pain in the pelvis
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
The chance that bladder cancer will come back (recur) is greatest within 2 years, so you will need close follow-up during this time.
Schedule for follow-up visits
Follow-up visits for bladder cancer are usually scheduled every 3 to 6 months for the first 2 years then every year after that. Your doctor may want to continue frequent follow-up for more than 2 years. This depends on factors such as stage, risk group and the treatments you have had.
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’re coping. They may also ask about any symptoms you have.
Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:
- a pelvic exam or digital rectal exam (DRE)
- feeling for swollen lymph nodes in the pelvis and groin
- feeling the abdomen for an enlarged liver
Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:
- cystoscopy and urine cytology to check for cancer (if your bladder isn’t removed as part of your cancer treatment)
- blood tests to check your overall health and how your kidneys are working
- CT urography, CT scan or ultrasound to check for cancer in the pelvis and abdomen
- x-ray or CT scan of the chest to check if the cancer has spread to the lungs
If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss a plan for your treatment and care.
Questions to ask about follow-up
To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.
A description of the extent of cancer in the body, including the size of the tumour, whether there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes and whether the disease has spread from its original site to other parts of the body.
Stages are based on specific criteria for each type of cancer.
The process of determining the extent of cancer in the body based on exams and tests is called staging.
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