• Chemotherapy for Bladder Cancer

    Cancer chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unlike radiation and surgery, which are localized treatments, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning the drugs travel throughout the whole body. This means chemotherapy can reach cancer cells that may have spread, or metastasized, to other areas. It also means that the chemotherapy will affect normal cells in various parts of the body as well, producing side effects that may be unpleasant.
    Chemotherapy for bladder cancer may be delivered by mouth, through the vein (intravenously), or instilled directly into the bladder (intravesical chemotherapy). Chemotherapy may be given alone, or in addition to other treatments, such as surgery and/or radiation therapy .
    Intravesical chemotherapy may be given to patients with superficial tumors that were removed through a transurethral procedure. This form of chemotherapy can then be used to kill any cancer cells that may remain. Oral and IV chemotherapy for bladder cancer is usually given to patients with higher grade, more invasive cancers. Patients who already have metastatic cancer may also be offered chemotherapy.

    Chemotherapy Drugs Used for Bladder Cancer

    The following chemotherapeutic agents may be given to treat bladder cancer:
    • Cisplatin
    • Doxorubicin
    • Gemcitabin
    • Methotrexate
    • Vinblastin
    Chemotherapy drugs are often given in combinations. Your doctor will use information about your tumor grade and cancer stage to design an effective chemotherapy regimen for you.


    Chemotherapy may be used for metastatic bladder cancer; while chemotherapy won’t cure metastatic disease, it may help increase survival time. Tumors that don’t respond to chemotherapy may have a worse prognosis.

    Side Effects and Possible Complications

    In addition to the side effects of chemotherapy in general, chemotherapy to treat bladder cancer may cause the following side effects:
    • Bloody urine
    • Bladder irritation causing:
      • Frequent need to urinate
      • Urgent need to urinate
      • Pain and/or burning with urination


    Campell’s Urology. 8th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier Science; 2002: 2732-2765.

    Casciato DA. Manual of Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2004.

    Cecil Textbook of Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002: 633-634.

    Conn’s Current Therapy. 54th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002: 720-721.

    What you need to know about bladder cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/bladder . Accessed December 2002.

    Revision Information

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