Coping with Bladder Cancer

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

From diagnosis through treatment and beyond, living with bladder cancer can be challenging for patients, as well as their loved ones and caregivers. Fortunately, there are many strategies and resources available that can help patients and their loved ones live with bladder cancer while remaining as physically and emotionally healthy as possible.

Some issues that affect patients with bladder cancer include:

  • Coping with symptoms and side effects of bladder cancer
  • Diet and bladder cancer
  • Living with urinary diversion
  • Concerns about recurrence or second cancer
  • Survivorship care plan
  • Emotional support
  • Financial impact of bladder cancer
  • Support groups and organizations
  • Being the caregiver for a bladder cancer survivor
  • Coping with late-stage cancer

Bladder cancer symptoms and side effects

Patients with bladder cancer many experience many different symptoms and side effects, many of which may be due to the treatments they are receiving for their cancer. These include2-5:

There are many options available that can help patients to manage or reduce these side effects and improve their quality of life during and after bladder cancer treatment.

Diet and bladder cancer

Many patients are interested in whether there is a link between diet and bladder cancer.1 While evidence shows that there are links between diet and other cancers, there is not yet strong evidence linking the risk of getting bladder cancer to certain diets or foods. Some researchers think that eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking enough water each day may slightly reduce the risk of bladder cancer, but maintaining a healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet is the best way to improve your overall health.

Living with a urinary diversion

Patients diagnosed with muscle-invasive bladder cancer may need to have a type of surgery called radical cystectomy, in which the surgeon removes the patient’s bladder.6 The surgeon then typically creates a new way for the patient’s body to store and pass urine using one of the following procedures:

It can take some time, but many patients find that over time that they are able to adjust well to having a urinary diversion with little or no restrictions in carrying out their day-to-day life of work, personal relationships, and physical activities.

Concerns about recurrence or second cancer

It is understandable, and very common, after treatment for bladder cancer for patients to be concerned about the possibility of recurrence or second cancer.7 Recurrence means that the same bladder cancer grows back again after treatment. A second cancer is entirely new cancer that is unrelated to the initial bladder cancer. After treatment, patients have regular follow-up visits with their healthcare providers to help monitor for recurrence and second cancers, so they can be detected and treated as early as possible. There are also strategies that bladder cancer survivors can use to help cope with those fears.

What is a survivorship care plan?

After completing bladder cancer treatments, patients should receive a survivorship care plan.8 This is a helpful resource that helps patients navigate life as a bladder cancer survivor, including information about topics such as follow-up care, monitoring for recurrence, possible side effects that can occur after treatment, and guidelines for maintaining good overall health.

Emotional support

Patients diagnosed with bladder cancer commonly experience a range of different feelings and emotions.9 It is important for patients to receive the emotional support that they need to cope with these emotions in a healthy way.

Financial impact of cancer

Bladder cancer can have a significant financial impact on patients over time.10 There are a range of costs that patients may incur in addition to treatment costs themselves. However, there are resources available to help patients create a financial plan and seek financial assistance if eligible.

Support groups or organizations for bladder cancer

There are many support groups and organizations through which patients with bladder cancer can access information, search for resources, and take part in online or in-person support groups.11-14 These include:

  • American Cancer Society
  • Canadian Cancer Society
  • Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN)
  • Fight Bladder Cancer

Caregiving challenges

Caregivers can provide an invaluable source of physical, emotional, and practical support for patients with bladder cancer, both during treatment and after it is completed.15 While serving as a caregiver can be very rewarding, it can also be challenging and take a toll on the caregiver’s emotional and physical health. Caregivers also need to be supported and need to take time for self-care.

Coping with late-stage cancer

Coping with late-stage bladder cancer is a complex and difficult process for patients, caregivers, and loved ones.16 There are hard decisions to be made in the midst of a very emotional time. Various resources and support services can help patients and their loved ones to cope with their feelings and make plans to ensure that patients have the best-possible quality of life and are comfortable, respected, and empowered to make informed decisions.

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