Removing early bladder cancer | Cancer Research UK
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Removing early bladder cancer

Men and women discussing bladder cancer

This page has information about removing early bladder cancer.

If you have early bladder cancer, your specialist will remove the areas of cancer from the bladder lining during a cystoscopy under general anaesthetic. This procedure is called a TURBT (trans urethral resection of bladder tumours). This means that the areas of cancer are removed using a thin tube called a cystoscope. Your surgeon puts the cystoscope into the bladder through your urethra (the tube that connects your bladder to the outside). They sometimes do this during tests to diagnose bladder cancer.

After removing the cancer from the bladder lining your doctor sends samples to the laboratory for examination. Any biopsies that the surgeon takes from the rest of your bladder lining will also be sent to the lab to be examined. 

After the surgeon has removed the areas of bladder cancer they put chemotherapy into the bladder through a tube (catheter). This is called intravesical chemotherapy and reduces the risk of the cancer coming back by about 40%. You may have mitomycin C, epirubicin, or doxorubicin chemotherapy.

The pathologist who examines the biopsy samples will tell your doctor which grade of bladder cancer you have. The doctor will tell you whether you have low risk, intermediate risk or high risk early bladder cancer. They use this information to decide what further treatment you need. Depending on your risk group you may not need any further treatment. Or you may need to have further treatment into the bladder with chemotherapy or BCG therapy. Your doctor or specialist nurse will discuss this with you.

In some people the cancer comes back in the bladder lining some time after this treatment. So you will have cystoscopies at regular intervals. Then if you do get further tumours your surgeon can remove them while they are still at an early stage. This may be all the treatment that you need. Or you may also have chemotherapy or BCG treatment into the bladder. 

If the cancer starts to spread into the deeper muscle tissues of the bladder it is called invasive bladder cancer. We have detailed information about the treatment for invasive bladder cancer in this section.

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Updated: 29 July 2015