Sometimes, high-grade bladder tumors are hard to remove using surgical procedures like transurethral resection. These include tumors that occur in more than one area, lie flat against the bladder wall, or come back after certain treatments.
When surgical tumor removal isn’t a viable treatment option, one of the most valuable alternatives is intravesical therapy.
Intravesical Therapy is a type of immunotherapeutic or chemotherapeutic bladder cancer treatment.
The treatment uses a catheter to directly insert anticancer drugs into the bladder, as opposed to taking drugs orally or through an IV. The direct administration of drugs helps reduce the risk of side effects to healthy tissue surrounding malignant cancer cells.
Intravesical therapy is typically done in the doctor’s office over the course of six to eight weeks.
The medication used in the treatment may be a liquid chemotherapy drug, which helps kill cancer cells, or BCG (bacterium), which helps boost your body’s immune system. A catheter (flexible tube) fills the bladder with the liquid medication.
You’re asked to hold the medication in your bladder for up to two hours, then urinate. When BCG is used, your doctor may advise you to pour bleach into your toilet following urination to kill any leftover bacteria.
Following your weekly treatments, you may be given regular follow-up treatments for as much as a year or more. These follow-up treatments help keep the cancer from returning. Once the treatments are over, cystoscopy and urine cytology may be done about every three months to help check for cancer cells.
The possible risks to undergoing intravesical immunotherapy include:
- Bladder infection
- Bladder irritation
- Changes in your blood cell counts
- Bladder scarring