Traditionally, bladder cancer has been treated with chemotherapy. The following article provides other options in addition to chemotherapy that patients may want to explore.
There are several methods of managing bladder cancer. Once diagnosed, chances are surgery will be required to remove any tumors and chemotherapy will be initiated to prevent cancerous cells from returning. Patients with stage II and stage III bladder cancer are commonly treated with chemotherapy. Two types of drugs are usually administered intravenously (through a vein in your arm), or directly to your bladder by passing a tube through your urethra (intravesical therapy).
In some instances, chemotherapy may be performed before surgery in order to shrink a tumor enough to allow the surgeon to perform a less invasive surgery. Chemotherapy may sometimes be combined with radiation therapy if warranted.
Many chemo patients undergo a series of unpleasant side effects while undergoing treatment. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, alopecia, and fatigue are among the most common side effects. Most side effects cease after treatment; albeit rare, some treatments can leave long-term effects.
One alternative to chemotherapy is chemoprevention, or the prevention of cancer by the use of synthetic chemical medications, vitamins, minerals, or other natural substances.
As bladder cancer tends to be characterized by frequent recurrences, it is of paramount importance to minimize and monitor the cancer. Environmental factors such as cigarette smoking and other carcinogens, which come in contact with the urothelium (the layer of tissue that lines the urinary tract and bladder), are involved in the production and development of the disease. Thus, the justification behind chemoprevention of bladder cancer lies in reducing and/or reversing the contact of these carcinogenic chemicals with the urothelium.
For example, soy products, fruits and vegetables, garlic, green tea, lycopenes, and numerous other agents have been statistically shown to reduce cancer. Using these substances can aid in blocking new tumors in healthy individuals, as well as reduce the formation of additional tumors in those already being treated for bladder cancer.
There are countless chemotherapy drugs available today on the market. Gemcitabine, the generic for Gemzar, is perhaps one of the most common medicines used to treat bladder cancer. Gemcitabine works by interfering with cell division and ultimately stopping the growth of cancerous cells. As with most types of chemotherapy, Gemcitabine is given intravenously and some patients can expect to suffer side effects. With Gemcitabine, many experience allergic reactions affecting the face, tongue, or lips; others may feel extremely fatigued, bruise easily; others are likely to suffer from severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Hair loss is also typical, yet patients can expect hair growth to return once completing treatment.
Another such drug, Cisplatin, the generic for Pitonal, is an intravenous medicine that interferes with the multiplication of cancer cells and affects all phases of the cell cycle. Much like Gemcitabine, Cisplatin can cause users to experience a host of side effects comprising of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, headache or seizures, ear and hearing problems, in addition to hair loss and even eye and kidney problems.
In addition to chemotherapy is another option many patients are not familiar with: Chemowash. Intraoperative Hyperthermic Peritoneal Perfusion, or HIPEC, is a warmed chemotherapy bath that immediately follows tumor-removing surgery. Directly following surgery, the patient remains on the operating table and a high dose of warmed chemotherapy (up to 100º Fahrenheit) is applied to the open abdominal area. The "bath" lasts about ninety minutes, after which it is drained and the surgeon closes the incision.
Primarily reserved for those with advanced stages or recurrent cancer and have not responded favorably to other treatments, HIPEC can provide hope as many survive much longer than those who did not receive the treatment. Although this type of care has been around now fifteen years, its benefits are just being discovered as long-term studies are now coming to a close.
However, not everyone is a good candidate for HIPEC. One must be physically strong to endure a lengthy operation. Further, wound infections can occur and complications can arise from the surgery, which presents the greatest risk.