Breaking Down BCG

BCG -Bacillus Calmette–Guérin, is a term that Bladder Cancer survivors are a bit of afraid of. It is sometimes referred to as an immunotherapy. I have noticed that many people posting on our BladderCancer.net page are questioning BCG and what to expect. I would like to break it down for you.

How my bladder cancer was discovered

First, my cancer was found by mistake. I have been fighting Lung Cancer for over 4 years, and during one of my normal scans, tumors were seen in my bladder. Surprise! First, I had surgery to have the tumors removed as they were only attached to the bladder wall. I am very lucky and thankful for that.

Now, the day arrives that I have to go to the urologist office for my very first BCG treatment. I don't know what I was thinking would occur, but it was much simpler than I anticipated.

My first BCG treatment

I was led into a procedure room, and after removing everything from the waist down, I was asked to lay down on the patient bed. The nurse prepped me by preparing a sterile environment. Then a catheter was placed into my bladder and the medication was inserted into my bladder. It took possibly a total of 30 seconds. I was shocked it was so quick and painless (well, uncomfortable but painless).

Holding the liquid in my bladder for two hours

The hard part was yet to come, and I didn't know that. The nurse instructed me to hold the liquid in for 2 hours. That may sound like a piece of cake for some of you, but I gave birth to seven children, so it was not as easy as I had hoped. Once I was able to urinate, there are very specific instructions. You must pour bleach down the toilet each time you go to the bathroom for the first day.

The side effects of BCG

There sometimes is burning upon urination, bladder spasms and or blood upon urination. Not a lot, but enough to catch your eye. These are all normal possibilities. After each treatment, I was given a brief course of antibiotics (2 to 3 days) and Oxybutynin, which takes away the bladder spasms. After a BCG treatment, this is a must needed medication. The spasms are not bad but enough to stop you mid-sentence. Another option is AZO which is sold over the counter. AZO has proved to me many times to relax my bladder more than the prescription medication. One thing you need to know about Oxybutynin is that it will dry you out - mouth, eyes, etc. It can be annoying, and AZO does not have that effect. Warning: when taking AZO, your urine will be red and you must flush the toilet immediately as it will stain porcelain toilets.

Depends on the person

BCG is really one of those medications that it depends on the person: some will do fine, and others will have spasms and more. I wish you luck.

Have you had any other side effects that I haven't mentioned? I'd love for you to let me know in the comments below.

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