After Effects From BCG

I was diagnosed in April of 2017 with Bladder Cancer. This is on top of my Lung Cancer that I have had for 4 years (yippee). I have had 3 cystoscopies, 2 TURBTS, and BCG 3 times so far. For those of you new to the Bladder Cancer family:


Cystoscopy is a procedure used to diagnose bladder cancer by looking at the lower urinary tract. It's performed by a urologist with a tool called a cystoscope which uses a light to guide the urologist when examining the bladder.


A TURBT is a procedure that is similar to the cystoscopy in which bladder tumors can be removed from the bladder wall. The procedure is performed completely with a scope that is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. Biopsies of the tumors can also be taken during the TURBT which can help the healthcare team stage the cancer. TURBTs are generally performed in the hospital setting under anesthesia as an outpatient (which means patients can return home after the procedure rather than being admitted to the hospital).


BCG stands for Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, which is the main intravesical immunotherapy used to treat early-stage bladder cancer. An intravesical therapy means that the treatment is inserted directly into the bladder through a catheter. BCG is traditionally known as a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB), but it is commonly used in bladder cancer treatment.

Are these side effects normal?

The combination of a TURBT and BCG can cause several side effects. Frequent urination, blood in urine, bladder cramping and more. As a Facebook participant in several Bladder Cancer Facebook groups, I quite often see patients post questions such as, "It's been months since my BCG ended and I still have cramping and urgency. Is this normal?"

I can only speak for myself and what MY doctor told me, and the answer to the question for me was 'YES'. It has been 5 months since my last BCG treatment, and I still have all of the side effects I mentioned above. Maybe not quite a severe as they were a few months ago, but they are still there. I go in every three months for a cystoscopy and I am told each time (for the last two times) that there were no new tumors, but that the inside of my bladder is quite irritated.

Dealing with irritation

My conclusion is that BCG really does a number on us. It is very irritating, and that irritation can last for months. I personally have found that a product that is sold over the counter, AZO, helps me much more than a prescription of Oxybutrin (the anti-spasm medication given to me after each treatment).

Oxybutrin works wonderfully for me, but I find it dries me out too much — eyes, nose, but most importantly, my lungs. So a day or two after surgery, I switch to AZO. Please remember, I am not a physician, and this is not to be considered medical advice, however, it is what worked for me!

Have you had a similar experience or have any tips for managing the side effects from BCG treatments? Share in the comments below?

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