Bladder Cancer Recurrence

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: September 2017.

Bladder cancer is caused by cells that mutate (change) and begin to grow in an uncontrolled way.1-3 Bladder cancer can be treated in many different ways. The tumor can be removed with surgery, and treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be used to help kill any remaining cancer cells and to keep new cancer cells from growing.

What is bladder cancer recurrence?

However, people who have been treated for bladder cancer sometimes develop recurrent bladder cancer. This is the term for cancer that has recurred, which means that the bladder cancer cells have started to grow again after the bladder cancer has been treated. Bladder cancer cells can recur in the bladder or they can recur in other parts of the body.

Some people who are treated for bladder cancer never have a recurrence. Although recurrence is not uncommon among people who are treated for bladder cancer, in many cases the recurrence can be treated effectively. This is especially true for non-invasive bladder cancer that is located in the lining of the bladder (the urothelium) and has not grown into the muscle of the bladder walls.

Can I lower my risk of cancer returning?

Unfortunately, researchers do not yet understand exactly what causes bladder cancer to recur in some people, but not in others.2 There are studies being carried out to try and find out if there are any vitamins, minerals, supplements, or medicines that might help to reduce the risk of recurrence. But as of now, there is no proof that any of these things have an effect on the chance that bladder cancer will recur.

Maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle is good for your overall health, however. Following a healthy diet, staying active, and avoiding unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, is a good idea for everyone. If you find yourself worrying about bladder cancer recurrence, stress-relieving activities such as exercise or meditation might help to reduce your anxiety.

How is recurrence tested?

After your treatment for bladder cancer has ended, your healthcare providers will monitor you regularly during check-ups (also called follow-ups) for signs and symptoms that your cancer may have recurred.1,2 This might involve tests such as physical examinations, urine tests, blood tests, and/or imaging tests.

Active surveillance is a type of follow-up that involves monitoring a patient’s condition with specialized tests for signs that the patient’s condition is getting worse. Usually, treatment is not needed unless the results of the test show that the condition has changed.

It is very important to continue visiting your healthcare provider regularly as scheduled for check-ups, especially if you are receiving active surveillance. Treatment for bladder cancer recurrence tends to be more effective when the recurrence is detected as early as possible.

Bladder cancer and treatment options for recurrence

If your bladder cancer recurs, you will undergo tests to find out more about the cancer cells.1-3 The type of treatment will depend on where the cancer cells have recurred and what type of treatments you received before. After learning more about the recurrence, your cancer care team will discuss all the possible treatment options that are available for you.

Some treatment options that can be used for bladder cancer recurrence, either alone or in combination, include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Intravesical therapy (special chemotherapy delivered directly into the bladder)
  • Taking part in a clinical trial for a new type of treatment under development

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