Bladder Cancer Treatment

Expert care and a range of treatment options.

Urologic cancer expert discusses bladder cancer treatment options with patient

There are many ways to treat bladder cancer. Your treatment begins with a customized plan based on expert guidelines, called protocols. Your treatment is determined by:

  • The type of cancer you have: transitional cell carcinoma (most common), squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma (very rare). They are named for the type of cell affected. 
  • Where the tumor is and how big it is
  • Grade and stage of the cancer
  • If the cancer has spread to other parts of your body
  • Your overall health and health history
  • How you feel about the risks and side effects of different treatments
  • Your choices and preferences

Talking about your treatment choices will be one of the most important meetings you’ll have with your healthcare provider. 

It may take time to choose the best treatment plan. Ask your provider how much time you can take to learn more about your options. You may want to get a second opinion from another provider before deciding on treatment. You may also want to talk with your family and friends. In fact, it’s helpful to bring loved ones with you to appointments. This can help you deal with the medical information and remember all of your questions. A written list will also make it easier for you to remember your questions. You may find it helps to take notes, too.

Understanding the goals of treatment for bladder cancer

Treatment for bladder cancer may have one or more of these goals. Be sure you understand the goals of your treatment before it starts: 

  • Remove or kill the cancer cells.
  • Kill any cancer cells that may have spread.
  • Prevent or delay the cancer from coming back.
  • Slow the growth of cancer and treat symptoms when the cancer can't be cured.
  • Have as few side effects from the treatment as possible, and control the ones that you do have.

Bladder cancer treatment options

There are several types of treatment for bladder cancer, and many people undergo a combination of treatments.

  • Surgery has the goal of removing the tumor. Legacy Cancer Institute features experienced surgeons who in many cases use minimally invasive techniques, including robotic surgery, that may allow you to recover more quickly than traditional surgery.

    Common surgeries for bladder cancer include:
    • Transurethral resection (TUR) is a surgery that uses a thin lighted tube called a cystoscope to enter the bladder through the urethra to remove cancer.
    • Partial cystectomy removes part of the bladder, especially in those with low-grade tumors limited to one area of the bladder. Also called a segmental cystectomy.
    • Radical cystectomy removes the bladder and nearby lymph nodes or organs. Urinary diversion creates a new route for the body to store and pass urine.
  • Radiation uses high-energy X-rays or other radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Learn more about radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Learn more about chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to treat cancer (also called biologic therapy). Substances from the body or made in a lab are used to trigger an immune response. They boost, restore or direct your own natural defense against cancer. Learn more about immunotherapy

Talk to your doctor about these and other options for treating bladder cancer. There may also be a clinical trial (research study) for which you are eligible. Researchers are discovering new therapies for treating cancer all the time, giving doctors new resources for your care. 

Bladder cancer experts

Legacy Cancer Institute, located in Portland, OR, ranks among the nation’s best cancer programs. We have a team of urologic cancer specialists who work together to diagnose and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Find the right provider and treatment close to home.

Legacy Cancer Institute is accredited as an integrated network cancer program by the American College of surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). Learn more about our quality cancer care.

Working together for you

Our cancer experts work together with a common goal: delivering the right care for you.

A range of specialists collaborate regularly in meetings called tumor boards to discuss the best plan for your care. Your treatment plan is made just for you, depending on your general health, your age, your particular cancer and its growth.

Legacy Health collaborates with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to advance cancer care in our region. By working together, you benefit from the strength of both leaders in cancer care. As an integrated community cancer program for adults, we make sure that you have access to the latest treatments, technology and research available. 

What happens next

Many cancer treatments can cause challenging side effects. Your cancer team is dedicated to helping you manage these symptoms in the best ways possible. Comfort care can treat symptoms to help improve your quality of life; this is also called palliative care.

To see how well your treatment is working, some of the tests used to diagnose and stage your cancer may be repeated. Your doctor uses these tests to decide whether to stop, change or continue treatment based on the results. These tests can also determine if cancer has returned. Whenever possible, we work to stop the growth of cancer and reduce the chance of cancer coming back.  

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.