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by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Chemotherapy for Bladder Cancer

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body. It may be used:
  • Before surgery —to shrink the tumor
  • After surgery—to kill any cancer cells that are left behind
  • With radiation therapy —if surgery cannot be done
  • To help ease symptoms caused by the tumor

Chemotherapy Drugs and How They Are Given

There are many kinds of chemotherapy drugs. The drugs and how they are used will depend on the type of cancer. Bladder cancer may be treated with:
  • Cisplatin
  • Fluorouracil (5-FU)
  • Mitomycin
  • Doxorubicin
  • Gemcitabine
  • Methotrexate
  • Vinblastine
  • Carboplatin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Docetaxel
Chemotherapy is most often given through an IV. It is done in cycles over a set period.
A liquid agent may also be placed right into the bladder. The agent will alert the immune system to attack the cancer.

Side Effects and Management

Chemotherapy causes a range of health problems. The most common are:
  • Blood in the urine (pee)
  • An irritated bladder, which may cause:
    • Increased urination (peeing)
    • A strong need to pass urine
    • Pain or burning when passing urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling tired because of anemia
There are many ways to manage these problems. Medicines and lifestyle changes are the most common. Sometimes chemo cycles may be changed to lower the risk of serious problems. It is important to talk to the doctor about problems right away. Getting help early make problems easier to control.

References

Bladder cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bladder-cancer . Accessed March 30, 2022.
Bladder cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/genitourinary-cancer/bladder-cancer. Accessed March 30, 2022.
Bladder cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/bladder/patient/bladder-treatment-pdq. Accessed March 30, 2022.
Chemotherapy for bladder cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladder-cancer/treating/chemotherapy.html. Accessed March 30, 2022.

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