Bladder Cancer

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Treatment Options

Research shows that bladder cancer patients have better outcomes if they receive care at centers like Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) that treat large numbers of people with this disease. We have a world-class team of UW Medicine doctors who specialize in genitourinary cancers and see hundreds of patients with bladder cancer each year.

In addition to providing the best standard of care available, we offer leading-edge clinical studies and extensive support services, for patients and their families. Once your doctor has diagnosed bladder cancer and determined the aggressiveness (grade) and extent (stage) of your cancer, there are several options for treatment.

Superficial Bladder Cancer Treatment

Superficial bladder cancer (also called non-invasive or non-muscle invasive bladder cancer) may sit on the inside surface of the bladder or within the first lining of the bladder (lamina propria). It hasn’t begun to invade the muscles that support the bladder lining. This type of cancer can be treated with endoscopic surgery and, if necessary, chemotherapy or immunotherapy administered directly into the bladder.

After treatment is complete, it’s important to have regular checkups that include cystoscopy (a procedure to insert a thin camera through the urethra to examine the bladder). At first, this is done frequently, typically every three months, and then over time less often, annually for most people. This is important because bladder cancer tends to recur, and cystoscopy can help doctors detect a recurrence early when it’s easier to treat successfully. 

Muscle-Invasive Bladder Cancer Treatment

Approximately 30 percent of all bladder cancers are muscle-invasive cancers at diagnosis. If your cancer is invading the muscles of the bladder, you will need specially coordinated, comprehensive care that incorporates the scheduling of many treatments.

SCCA’s Bladder Cancer Multispecialty Clinic (BCMC) incorporates everything you’ll need to treat your disease:

  • Surgery, including robot-assisted surgery to speed your recovery and advanced urinary reconstructions that help preserve your quality of life if you need your bladder removed
  • Chemotherapy, the latest medicines approved for use through clinical studies
  • Radiation therapy, which is especially important to receive from a center that has extensive experience with bladder cancer

You may also be able to receive bladder-sparing treatment—meaning treatment using chemotherapy and radiation therapy without surgery to remove the bladder. 

Metastatic Bladder Cancer Treatment

Metastatic cancer means your bladder cancer has spread outside the bladder. Chemotherapy is the primary treatment. It may be combined with surgery or radiation in select situations. Together, you and your team of SCCA bladder cancer specialists will determine the best course of treatment for you.

Bladder Cancer Clinical Studies

Doctors and scientists from SCCA work hard to understand what drives bladder cancer and to translate their findings into innovative treatments. These treatments are tested in research studies called clinical studies or clinical trials. The best way to receive tomorrow’s treatments today is to participate in one of these studies.