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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 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Jennifer Toth moderator author
    1 year ago

    Deciding on a treatment plan is so difficult. Your knowledge will be so helpful but as patients we need to reach the milestone of “listening.” Best wishes to you. Jennifer, team

  • counselingyogi
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much for relaying your experience. We are still leaning toward integrative therapies after 2 TURBTS in 6 months. this information was very helpful. As a psycho-oncology professional and a cancer survivor myself, it’s difficult to get my husband who is the patient, to even look at the website much less read the data I’ve pulled. I think your personal experience will be very helpful to him as he makes a decision on how to proceed from here should he decide on BCG. He’s 62, a vegetarian, marathon runner, very healthy, so the dx was a complete shock.

  • Sarah Wallin moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi @counselingyogi! So glad that reading Jennifer’s experience was helpful to you, thanks for commenting. It sounds like you’re an incredible partner with all you’re doing to assist your husband in this next decision of his journey. I can see how his diagnosis could come at a complete shock. There are several members of this community who’ve gone through BCG and would be happy to discuss if you or he has any additional questions ( I’m linking you to a specific Q&A where some additional personal experiences about BCG were shared ( Do keep in touch with what he decides and how things are going for you! This community is here to support you both. Take care, Sarah ( Team Member)

  • volsrider
    1 year ago

    Fatigue was big time with me. Unfortunately at instillation number 18, I had pain for weeks and a series of antibiotics. But, still have my bladder.

  • Sarah Wallin moderator
    1 year ago

    @volsrider, experiencing fatigue and pain for weeks and having to take a series of antibiotics sounds challenging. That’s great you still have your bladder. Appreciate you stopping by to share with us! The community likes hearing about what to expect. -Sarah ( Team Member)

  • lroscoe
    1 year ago

    I agree with Jennifer that it sounds a lot worse than it is. It can be hard to keep going each week, esp for 6-week plan. I did that over the summer and finished a 3 week maintenance schedule last month. My main symptom was fatigue- happened at the end of the 6 weeks, wasn’t a problem with on,y 3 weeks.

  • Sarah Wallin moderator
    1 year ago

    @lroscoe I’m glad you relate to Jennifer’s article. Pushing through fatigue toward the end of your treatments must have been tough. Any tips for how you got through that? Thank you for sharing and commenting. -Sarah ( Team Member)

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