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Bladder Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stages II and III Bladder Cancer Treatment

Standard Treatment Options for Stages II and III Bladder Cancer

Standard treatment options for stage II bladder cancer and stage III bladder cancer include the following:

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Understanding Bladder Cancer -- the Basics

The bladder is a pouch in the urinary tract that stores urine after it is produced by the kidneys. The bladder is lined with specialized cells called transitional cells. Bladder cancer often arises from these transitional cells. The cancer spreads by penetrating bladder muscle, infiltrating surrounding fat and tissue, and -- if untreated -- spreads to lymph nodes and other organs, such as the liver, lungs, or bones. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the more limited it will likely be and...

Read the Understanding Bladder Cancer -- the Basics article > >

  1. Radical cystectomy.
  2. Neoadjuvant combination chemotherapy followed by radical cystectomy.
  3. External-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) with or without concomitant chemotherapy.
  4. Segmental cystectomy (in selected patients).
  5. Transurethral resection (TUR) with fulguration (in selected patients).

The most common treatments for muscle-invasive bladder cancer are radical cystectomy and radiation therapy. There is no strong evidence from randomized controlled trials to determine whether surgery or radiation therapy is more effective. There is strong evidence that both therapies become more effective when combined with chemotherapy. At the present time, the treatments with the highest level of evidence supporting their effectiveness are radical cystectomy preceded by multiagent cisplatin-based chemotherapy and radiation therapy with concomitant chemotherapy.

Radical cystectomy

Radical cystectomy is a standard treatment option for stage II and stage III bladder cancer, and its effectiveness at prolonging survival increases if it is preceded by cisplatin-based multiagent chemotherapy.[1,2,3,4] Radical cystectomy is accompanied by pelvic lymph node dissection and includes removal of the bladder, perivesical tissues, prostate, and seminal vesicles in men and removal of the uterus, tubes, ovaries, anterior vaginal wall, and urethra in women.[5,6,7,8] Studies of outcomes after radical cystectomy report increased survival in patients who had more, rather than fewer, lymph nodes resected; whether this represents a therapeutic benefit of resecting additional nodes or stage migration is unknown.[9] There are no randomized controlled trials evaluating the therapeutic benefit of lymph node dissection in this setting.

Radical cystectomy is a major operation with a perioperative mortality rate of 2% to 3% when performed at centers of excellence.[6,7,8] Postoperative complications include ileus. Most men have erectile dysfunction after radical cystectomy; sexual dysfunction after this operation is also common in women.[10,11,12]

One study of 27 women who underwent radical cystectomy reported diminished ability to have orgasm in 45%, decreased lubrication in 41%, decreased sexual desire in 37%, and pain with vaginal intercourse in 22%. Fewer than one-half were able to have successful vaginal intercourse and most reported decreased satisfaction with their sexual lives after surgery.[12] Studies suggest that radical cystectomy with preservation of sexual function can be performed in some men. In addition, new forms of urinary diversion can obviate the need for an external urinary appliance.[13,14,15,16]

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