While chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation always remain options for treating bladder cancer, surgery is the gold standard in eradicating this disease. Skilled surgeons use a wide range of techniques that range from removing tumors through the urethra to removing part or all of the bladder. Since most bladder cancers are diagnosed at the superficial, or non-invasive, stages, surgery is an effective treatment option.
There are three main surgical options for bladder cancer removal. The type and scope of the surgery will largely depend on the disease advancement.
Years ago, bladder cancer patients had only one option once the bladder was removed – an external urine collection bag. Today, skilled surgeons can create new urine collection reservoirs from the patient's small intestines. There are several urinary diversions used.
Depending on what procedure you had, the recovery time from bladder cancer surgery can range from a couple of days to weeks. The less invasive procedure, the TUR, requires little downtime because there are no surgical incisions. This procedure is usually done at an outpatient facility. Even though bladder cancer is known to reoccur, a TUR can be repeated several times with success.
The more invasive cystectomy and reconstruction surgeries require hospital stays and recovery periods. The typical four to six week recovery could include excessive bleeding, incontinence and urine flow blockage. Both men and women could suffer sexual side effects from the radical cystectomy. For men, removal of the seminal vesicle means semen will not be produced. For women, the surgical removal of part of the vagina could make sex uncomfortable.
Because bladder cancer is often caught in the early stages, the survival rate is very good. With early discovery, the overall five-year survival rate for bladder cancer is 80 percent.