For localized muscle-invasive bladder cancer, you may have chemotherapy before or after surgery — or, in some cases, to try to save your bladder. If cancer has spread beyond your bladder, chemotherapy is the most common first treatment (and there are more treatment options). Your medical oncologist talks with you about the goals and the pros/cons of systemic therapy, prescribes it and sets your treatment schedule, based on the details of your cancer and your individual needs and wishes.
After surgeons remove non-muscle invasive cancer, they often put chemotherapy into the patient’s bladder. The goals are to kill any cancer cells that are still there and reduce the risk of cancer coming back. The medicine is put in through a catheter. It is left for one to two hours. It is drained from your bladder before you leave the recovery room.
Systemic chemotherapy is given by infusion (put into a vein). It travels throughout your body.
It can be used:
- Before or after surgery. This may improve the chance of a cure if your cancer has a high risk of spreading. It helps destroy microscopic cancer cells that might still be somewhere in the body after surgery and may not be visible on imaging.
- To make cancer easier to remove with surgery. This may be helpful if you have large, locally advanced disease.
- To control the cancer and related symptoms, improve your quality of life and help you live longer if cancer has spread to distant parts of your body.
For an infusion, liquid medicine is put into a vein through an intravenous (IV) line. This can be a line in your arm (peripheral venous catheter) or a port in your chest (central venous catheter), depending on the therapy. Treatment happens in repeating cycles.
You get infusions in a dedicated area of the clinic. Cancer nurses who are experts in infusions will give you these treatments. They will also check on you during the treatment. They will handle any medical issues that come up and help keep you comfortable.