Cancer chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unlike radiation and surgery, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning the drugs travel throughout the whole body. This means chemotherapy can reach cancer cells that may have spread, or metastasized, to other areas. It also means that the chemotherapy will affect normal cells as well, producing side effects that may be unpleasant.

Chemotherapy for bladder cancer may be delivered by mouth, by IV, or instilled directly into the bladder in a process called intravesical chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may be given alone or in addition to other treatments such as surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Intravesical chemotherapy may be given to patients with superficial tumors that were removed through a transurethral procedure. This form of chemotherapy can be used to kill any cancer cells that may remain. Oral and IV chemotherapy for bladder cancer is usually given to patients with higher grade, more invasive cancers. Patients who already have metastatic cancer may also be offered chemotherapy.

The following chemotherapeutic agents may be given to treat bladder cancer:

  • Cisplatin
  • Doxorubicin
  • Gemcitabin
  • Methotrexate
  • Vinblastin

Chemotherapy drugs are often given in combinations. Your doctor will use information about your tumor grade and cancer stage to design an effective chemotherapy treatment plan for you.

Chemotherapy may be used for metastatic bladder cancer. While it won’t cure metastatic disease, it may help increase survival time. Tumors that don’t respond to chemotherapy may have a worse outcome.

Chemotherapy to treat bladder cancer may cause the following side effects:

  • Bloody urine
  • Bladder irritation causing:
    • Frequent need to urinate
    • Urgent need to urinate
    • Pain and/or burning with urination