Many people with bladder cancer need more than one type of treatment, which means they need more than one type of physician. At Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), we bring a team of genitourinary specialists together for you in one place: the Bladder Cancer Multispecialty Clinic (BCMC). It’s our one-stop shop, where we guide you through complex treatment decisions and provide seamless, comprehensive care.
What is the Bladder Cancer Multispecialty Clinic?
The BCMC gives you a “home” where you can see a urologic oncologist, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist all on the same day. Our doctors are UW Medicine physicians who specialize in bladder cancer and other cancers of the urinary tract. They work with you as a team to plan and provide the care you need.
Our BCMC is the first clinic in the region to provide this type of multidisciplinary care for people with bladder cancer. We treat all types of the disease, from urothelial cancer, the most common type, to rare variations. The clinic is held once a week in the SCCA Prostate Oncology Center in the Surgery Pavilion at UW Medical Center – Montlake.
As a new patient, you will get a thorough evaluation of your unique case. You will leave your appointment with a complete, personalized treatment plan and a clear set of next steps.
Along with your physicians, your BCMC team includes:
- A pathologist and radiologist, who help with diagnosis and treatment planning
- Nurses and nurse practitioners, who help provide your care
- Research coordinators, who can explain clinical trials that are testing leading-edge therapies
- A program coordinator, who ensures your care runs smoothly
At SCCA, we offer a wide range of supportive care services, like nutrition and physical therapy, to help you thrive. We also have genetics specialists who can help you understand cancer risk in your family and help us find features of your cancer that may affect your treatment plan.
Who is the BCMC for?
If you have cancer that has invaded the muscle layer of your bladder but hasn’t spread to distant parts of your body, BCMC is designed for you. We also see new SCCA patients with non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer who started treatment somewhere else.
Why? These people are most likely to benefit from having two or more types of treatment: surgery, medicine-based options (like chemotherapy and immunotherapy) and/or radiation therapy.
How does team-based care help?
Research shows that our collaborative approach improves cancer care.1 Having a team of experts in one room at the same time is linked to:
- More accurate diagnosis
- Shorter time from your diagnosis to when you start treatment
- A treatment plan that closely matches evidence-based national guidelines about the best ways to treat this disease
- Better communication between members of your care team
- More satisfied patients
At the BCMC, we often reinterpret the test results and imaging that patients have had elsewhere. Then we refine their diagnosis and disease stage in important ways that influence their treatment choices.
What are the other options?
Not everyone with bladder cancer needs the BCMC.
If you have early-stage bladder cancer (only on the inside surface of your bladder, also called superficial or non-muscle-invasive) and you haven’t had treatment yet, our urologic oncologists have the expertise to plan and provide your care.
If you have metastatic bladder cancer, which has spread to distant parts of your body, our medical oncologists are the right match for your treatment needs. You’ll likely start by seeing one of them first.
In both of these cases, your physicians work closely with the same UW Medicine pathologists and radiologists who specialize in genitourinary cancers. They will also bring in any other experts you need — not only physicians and nurses, but also supportive care specialists who can help you with your physical and emotional needs.
Your first appointment
Your first appointment at the BCMC will usually take about four hours. You will spend about three hours with your physicians. We invite you to bring a friend or family member with you to help keep track of your questions and the information that your team gives you.
Here's what you can expect to happen.
Hour 1 – exam
You will meet with a resident doctor or fellow who will talk with you about your health history and do a physical exam.
Hour 2 – team meeting
Your team of physicians will meet to talk with each other about your cancer and the most effective ways to treat it. During this time, you will be free to visit the Patient Resource Center and other UW Medical Center amenities.
- Your resident or fellow will present the details they learned from talking with you and examining you.
- Your pathologist and radiologist will review and explain the results of any biopsies, other tests and imaging scans you’ve had.
- Your urologic oncologist, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist will apply their experience and knowledge about the best treatment approach for people in your situation.
Together, the team will design a treatment plan specifically for you.
Hours 3 and 4 – recommendations
You will meet one-on-one with each physician from your team. You will stay in the same room and the physicians will come to you. We will explain the treatment we recommend for you and why. We’re here to answer your questions and talk through your options so you can make decisions you feel good about.
What happens next?
Before you leave, you will meet the BCMC program coordinator. We will schedule any appointments you need next. Your schedule will depend on your specific situation, but we’re here to handle the details and make the process as worry-free as possible for you.
Once treatment begins, our patients receive care at SCCA South Lake Union, UW Medical Center or both.
Everyone on our team is used to partnering one-on-one with patients and their families to put in place the plans that are right for them. We want to help you understand as much as you wish to about your disease, your treatment and how care happens here — so you can focus on living your life.
1. Leonidas N. Diamantopoulos et al, “Bladder Cancer Multispecialty Clinic (BCMC) Model Influences Disease Assessment and Impacts Treatment Recommendations,” Bladder Cancer 5 (2019): 289-298.