Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Victoria Croog.
Getting a bladder cancer diagnosis is a shock and comes with many questions. What’s my prognosis? What treatments will follow? Will I be in pain forever? In this article, we’d like to outline the process from diagnosis to recovery to give you an idea of what comes next and common side effects of treatments.
You probably saw your doctor because you had bloody or painful urination before your bladder cancer diagnosis, or maybe you were urinating more frequently than usual. Will this ever change? What your recovery looks like depends on the treatment options you receive and the stage of your cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, 90% of people diagnosed with bladder cancer survive for at least five years following diagnosis. The odds of survival are heavily in your favor, but the treatments could cause bodily changes that will require adjustments.
The recommended treatments for a bladder cancer diagnosis depend on the stage, underlying conditions, side effects of treatment that patients are willing to live with, and a variety of other factors. It’s important to get a few doctors' opinions to determine what’s best for you and your situation.
Bladder cancer can often be treated by removing or treating the tumor without removing the whole bladder; other times, the bladder may need to be removed. For superficial tumors able to be removed without removing the bladder, there remains a high risk of the tumor returning. BGC (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) treatment is one immunotherapy option that helps to prevent the return of bladder cancers. BGC treatment includes injecting a type of bacteria that fights the cancer cells into the bladder. Although this treatment is typically pretty effective, there are a few possible side effects.
If the bladder tumor is more invasive, surgery may not be recommended at all. In these cases, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used to kill the tumor without removing the bladder.
If your cancer has returned to the bladder and or your doctor recommends a cystectomy (bladder removal), there are a few ways that the doctor can rewire your urinary tract system to function without a bladder. In most cases, the surgeon will remake a bladder-like structure from the intestines so that an external bag is not needed and the body can naturally dispel the fluids. Peeing just might look different depending on which surgical incisions and styles they choose to use.
Regardless of what treatment option you and your doctors choose, there are inevitable side effects that last for the duration of the treatment and sometimes into recovery. We illustrate some solutions for bladder spasms and sleep difficulties that you can view if those are the problems you’re encountering. Cloudy urine is not a typical result of treatment, but can show other urinary tract problems that we also address.
Recovery after treatment will be different depending on how your cancer was treated (ie, superficial surgery or treatment, cystectomy, or chemotherapy and radiation).
After a cystectomy, the recovery time is usually 6 to 8 weeks, but it could take longer depending on what procedure you had and other underlying conditions that exist. Blood in the urine and stomach pain is normal at first. So is sexual dysfunction. Many people opt for treatments that help with sexual performance post-operation. If you’re experiencing trouble with returning to your normal sexual function after a surgical procedure, it’s best to talk to your doctor to see what they recommend for your case individually so you can have the best opportunity of success.
Bladder cancer support groups like ours at OneVillage can be a great source of real-time support from patients and caregivers who understand what it’s like to be in your shoes. Be sure to check out our real life bladder cancer stories written by people who understand.
Learn More about Bladder Cancer at OneVillage
Regardless of where you are in your cancer journey, OneVillage is here to help. OneVillage is dedicated to providing the support, information, goods, and services that cancer patients need. If you have any further questions about what OneVillage offers and site features, don’t hesitate to contact us.