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Bladder Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage I Bladder Cancer Treatment


Repeat TUR has not been shown to reduce relapse rates or prolong survival, but there is a clear rationale for seeking accurate staging information on which to base treatment decisions. Such information may change the definitive management options for patients and identify patients who are more likely to benefit from more aggressive treatment.

TUR with fulguration followed by an immediate postoperative instillation of intravesical chemotherapy followed by periodic intravesical instillations of bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG)

Intravesical BCG is the treatment of choice for reducing the risk of cancer progression and is mainly used for cancers with an intermediate or high risk of progressing.[6,13,14,15] An individual patient meta-analysis of randomized trials that compared intravesical BCG with intravesical mitomycin C (MMC) reported that there was a 32% reduction in risk of recurrence with BCG but only when the BCG treatment included a maintenance phase whereby BCG was given periodically for at least 1 year (typically an induction phase of six weekly treatments followed by three weekly treatments every 3 months).[14] Intravesical chemotherapy is tolerated better than intravesical BCG.[16,17,18,19,20] Although BCG may not prolong overall survival for Tis disease, it appears to afford complete response rates of about 70%, thereby decreasing the need for salvage cystectomy.[19] Studies show that intravesical BCG delays tumor recurrence and tumor progression.[20,21]

Evidence (immediate intravesical chemotherapy after transurethral resection):

  1. A 2004 meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials (1,476 patients with Ta or T1 bladder cancer) compared TUR alone with TUR followed by a single immediate intravesical instillation of chemotherapy.[7]
    • The relapse rates were 48% with TUR alone and 37% for TUR plus intravesical chemotherapy (OR, 0.61; P < .0001). The risk of recurrence declined for patients with single (OR, 0.61) or multiple (OR, 0.44) tumors, but 65% of those with multiple tumors relapsed despite intravesical chemotherapy.
    • Agents studied included epirubicin, MMC, thiotepa, and pirarubicin.[7]
  2. A subsequent multicenter, randomized, controlled trial confirmed the reduction in risk of recurrence. A 404-patient study reported a relapse rate of 51% for epirubicin immediately after TUR and a relapse rate of 63% for placebo immediately after TUR (P = .04). However, only small recurrences were prevented in this study, drawing into question the magnitude of benefit.[22]
  3. Similarly, another multicenter, randomized, controlled trial confirmed the reduction in risk of recurrence. A 305-patient study randomly assigned subjects to an instillation of epirubicin or no further treatment after TUR and reported relapse rates of 62% with epirubicin versus 77% in the control arm (P = .016).[8]
    • The hazard ratio for recurrence was 0.56 (P = .002) with epirubicin. However, the main benefit was seen in patients at lower risk of relapse. Among patients at intermediate or high risk of relapse, the relapse rates were 81% with epirubicin versus 85% with no further treatment (P = .35).
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