Bladder cancer and radiation therapy
What is bladder cancer?
Bladder cancer is diagnosed when cancerous cells grow inside the bladder. In its early stages, this type of cancer will start forming along the bladder lining. At this stage it is considered non-invasive. However, it may become an invasive cancer when it penetrates the bladder lining and grows deeper into the bladder walls. Once it begins to spread, it is more likely to metastasize to other parts of the body. There are several different medical options for treating bladder cancer, including radiation therapy.
Administering radiation therapy to bladder cancer is specialized due to the movement of the bladder. During treatment, the radiation oncologist will order both external beam radiation therapy, and image guided radiation therapy to be used. External beam therapy means that the radiation is being delivered from a source outside of the body – from a radiation machine. Image guided radiation means that gold markers are implanted inside the bladder so that the tumor can be easily identified. This is important since the bladder is continually moving while it fills and empties. By marking the tumor, radiation can be precisely delivered to the tumor even while the bladder is in motion.
Radiation therapy and other treatments
When early stage cancer has been diagnosed, the patient may undergo a transurethral resection of the bladder tumor (TURBT). The goal is to surgically remove the tumor. After this surgery, radiation therapy is commonly diagnosed to treat the bladder. This follow-up therapy is meant to destroy any cancerous cells that could be remaining. A combination of radiation and chemotherapy may also be used to destroy cells after a TURBT.
In fact, radiation is routinely used alongside chemotherapy when treating cancer of the bladder. Aside from the TURBT procedure, the combination can be used to help relieve symptoms associated with the cancer, including urinary blockage, pain, and bleeding. Furthermore, both can be used to treat advanced bladder – when cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as bone, or the brain.
Radiation side effects
There are several side effects associated with radiation therapy. When patients are treated with radiation for cancer of the bladder, additional side effects may occur including:
- Irritation of the bladder
- Urinary frequency
- Bleeding from the bladder
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Cramping in the abdomen
- Frequent or loose bowel movements
If you have been diagnosed with cancer of the bladder and would like to learn about the potential benefits of radiation therapy, contact us to schedule a consultation.