• Chemotherapy for Bladder Cancer

    Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy bladder cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body to the cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used:
    • Before surgery—to shrink the tumor and decrease the amount of tissue that needs to be removed
    • After surgery—to kill any remaining cancer cells and decrease risk of return
    • In combination with radiation therapy—if surgery is not an option
    • To help relieve symptoms of metastatic cancer and extend survival time

    Chemotherapy Drugs and Delivery

    There are a variety of chemotherapy drugs. The choice and combination of drugs will be based on your particular cancer and reaction to drugs. Chemotherapy drugs for bladder cancer may include:
    • Cisplatin
    • Fluorouracil (5-FU)
    • Mitomycin
    • Doxorubicin
    • Gemcitabine
    • Methotrexate
    • Vinblastine
    • Carboplatin
    • Paclitaxel
    • Docetaxel
    Chemotherapy for bladder cancer is most often given through an IV. It is delivered in cycles over a set period of time. A medical oncologist will determine how many cycles of chemotherapy are needed and what combination of drugs will work best.
    Chemotherapy may also be delivered directly into the bladder. Intravesical chemotherapy places a liquid agent directly into the bladder. The liquid may be a chemotherapy drug or a biologic agent that provokes the immune system into launching an attack on the cancer cells.

    Side Effects and Management

    Though the drugs are targeted to cancer cells, they can affect healthy cells as well. The death of cancer cells and impact on healthy cells can cause a range of side effects. A medical oncologist will work to find the best drug combination and dosage to have the most impact on the cancer cells and minimal side effects on healthy tissue. Side effects or complications from chemotherapy may include:
    • Bloody urine
    • Bladder irritation causing:
      • Frequent need to urinate
      • Urgent need to urinate
      • Pain and/or burning with urination
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Fatigue due to anemia
    A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects including medication, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments. In some cases, the chemotherapy regimen may be adjusted to reduce severe side effects. The earlier the side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.


    Bladder cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003085-pdf.pdf. Accessed June 30, 2015.

    Bladder cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 14, 2015. Accessed June 30, 2015.

    Bladder cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/genitourinary-cancer/bladder-cancer. Updated November 2013. Accessed June 30, 2015.

    Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/bladder/patient/bladder-treatment-pdq. Updated May 29, 2015. Accessed June 30, 2015.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.