Hartford Hospital

Conditions In Brief

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Cancer chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unlike radiation and surgery, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning the drugs travel throughout the whole body. This means chemotherapy can reach cancer cells that may have spread, or metastasized, to other areas. It also means that the chemotherapy will affect normal cells as well, producing side effects that may be unpleasant.

Chemotherapy for bladder cancer may be delivered by mouth, by IV, or instilled directly into the bladder in a process called intravesical chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may be given alone or in addition to other treatments such as surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Intravesical chemotherapy may be given to patients with superficial tumors that were removed through a transurethral procedure. This form of chemotherapy can be used to kill any cancer cells that may remain. Oral and IV chemotherapy for bladder cancer is usually given to patients with higher grade, more invasive cancers. Patients who already have metastatic cancer may also be offered chemotherapy.

The following chemotherapeutic agents may be given to treat bladder cancer:

  • Cisplatin
  • Doxorubicin
  • Gemcitabin
  • Methotrexate
  • Vinblastin

Chemotherapy drugs are often given in combinations. Your doctor will use information about your tumor grade and cancer stage to design an effective chemotherapy treatment plan for you.

Chemotherapy may be used for metastatic bladder cancer. While it won’t cure metastatic disease, it may help increase survival time. Tumors that don’t respond to chemotherapy may have a worse outcome.

Chemotherapy to treat bladder cancer may cause the following side effects:

  • Bloody urine
  • Bladder irritation causing:
    • Frequent need to urinate
    • Urgent need to urinate
    • Pain and/or burning with urination

Bladder cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladdercancer/. Accessed June 5, 2013.

Bladder cancer. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=100. Updated March 2013. Accessed June 5, 2013.

What you need to know about bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/bladder. Updated August 30, 2010. Accessed June 5, 2013.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD; Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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