A bladder cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Suddenly, you are bombarded with details about the condition, treatment and outlook. As you try to understand the journey ahead, you’ll want to make the most of your doctor’s visits by asking the tough questions.

From people living with bladder cancer, to doctors who treat it, here are some key questions to ask.

How might my life be different after being diagnosed with bladder cancer?

There's no way around it – bladder cancer can interrupt your daily life. Differences can range from follow-up care, both short- and long-term changes in how your body looks and feels, and new medications or medical devices to incorporate into your daily routine. It is also common to experience increased stress and anxiety with your treatment plans, which may include biological therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery.i

Surgery is done for most bladder cancers.ii The type you have depends on the stage of your cancer. In some cases, your doctor might suggest a urostomy, a procedure to help your body collect waste.iii After a surgery like this, it's common to worry how this will impact daily activities. After the surgery, you may experience frequent urination, incontinence, infections or damage to nearby organs.ii To help manage changes, it’s important to discuss potential long-term effects with the doctor, both before and after surgery.iv

How could my bladder cancer diagnosis affect my relationships?

Any cancer diagnosis can impact relationships, particularly personal ones. In addition to physical changes, you and your partner may face an emotional burden that strains communication. While everyone reacts and copes differently, it is important to communicate and express emotions, instead of holding them inside.

One way to do this is for partners to include one another in decisions, both big and small. Consult with your partner on treatment options and be open about the stress associated with your diagnosis. Life will likely change in some ways following a bladder cancer diagnosis, and you can better navigate any challenges with open dialogue and support from loved ones.

Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare team for a referral to a counselor or social worker who may be able to help bridge any gaps in communicating. Additionally, you may find it helpful to connect with others who have similar experiences or questions. The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network* organizes virtual support groups on Facebook. Additionally, your doctor may have recommendations for other local support groups.

Will bladder cancer affect my sex life?

Some personal questions may feel uncomfortable to discuss at first, such as about how bladder cancer will impact your sex life. This question may be particularly important for candidates considering a radical cystectomy. If the cancer is larger or is in more than one part of the bladder, a radical cystectomy will be needed. This operation removes the entire bladder and nearby lymph nodes.ii

Men who have radical cystectomies typically have their prostate gland and seminal vesicles removed, meaning they will no longer be able to make semen. Some men may also experience nerve damage after surgery and have difficulty having erections. For women, radical cystectomies often include the removal of the front part of a woman’s vagina, which may cause some discomfort during sex.ii

These experiences are different for everyone, but there are many ways you can have a full and satisfying sex life. By discussing concerns with your doctor and your partner, you can work together on a path forward.

Get more answers to the tough questions

You do not have to go through this journey alone. Visit the Let’s Target the Tough Stuff YouTube page for more insights from bladder cancer patients, as well as feedback from doctors and others who have experienced this journey.

*The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network is operated independently and is not controlled or endorsed by Astellas or Seagen.

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