Bladder Cancer

Overview

Bladder cancer is the most common form of urinary tract cancer. For years, surgeons removed cancerous cysts in the bladder with an open surgical procedure called a cystectomy. In some cases, this type of procedure led to post-operative complications. Today, minimally invasive surgical options like robotic-assisted cystectomy offer less pain, shorter recovery times, and better outcomes.

If you’re diagnosed with bladder cancer, your treatment will depend on the progression of the disease and your overall health. The great news is that early detection and treatment often yield positive long-term results.

Symptoms

Bladder cancer symptoms may include:

  • Blood in the urine (urine may be orange, pink or red)
  • Changes in urination frequency
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Back or abdominal pain

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of bladder cancer, be sure to contact your doctor right away.

Diagnosis

To detect bladder cancer and determine its extent and progression, your doctor may order one or more of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Urinalysis to test for the presence of blood in the urine
  • Urine cytology to test for cancer cells in the urine
  • Ultrasounds
  • CT scan/MRI
  • Cystoscopy to view the interior of the bladder
  • Biopsy to remove a small portion of tissue for testing

Treatment Options

Non-surgical treatment options

After diagnosis, your doctor may decide to closely monitor your condition and see how things progress.

If bladder cancer treatment is required, your doctor may prescribe a non-surgical treatment option like:

You doctor may also recommend combining several non-surgical treatment options with surgery, or getting surgery as soon as possible after diagnosis.

Surgical treatment options

If surgery is recommended as part of your bladder cancer treatment plan, you’ll have several options to choose from.

Until recently, open cystectomy (open surgery) has been the main surgical option for bladder cancer patients. However, new minimally invasive surgical options are now being used at Aurora. These options offer fewer complications, shorter hospital stays, faster recovery times, and can be used to treat a variety of urinary tract cancers.

Robotic Cystectomy

Robotic cystectomy is a cutting-edge, minimally invasive surgical technique that utilizes unprecedented medical technology to treat bladder cancer.

During robotic cystectomy, the daVinci™ Surgical System is used to give surgeons a high-definition, three-dimensional view of the surgical site throughout the surgery. The daVinci robot imitates doctors’ movements for improved dexterity and precision, helping to make six keyhole-sized incisions across the abdomen. These incisions give the doctor less invasive access to the bladder. The robot even assists with suturing (stitching) after surgery is over.

Benefits of Robotic Cystectomy

Robotic cystectomy is quickly becoming the preferred surgical method for treating bladder cancer. It often results in shorter hospital stays, fewer complications, and a faster recovery time than traditional open surgery.

When compared with traditional surgery, robotic cystectomy offers:

  • Less tissue and nerve damage
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less blood loss
  • Less chance of needing a blood transfusion
  • Less scarring
  • Minimal discomfort
  • Less need for pain medication
  • Shorter hospital stays (4-7 days)
  • Faster recovery times – just 1 to 3 months to regain normal levels of urine control
  • Fewer complications during recovery
  • Reestablishment of normal sexual activity in just 11 months

But the most exciting benefit of robotic cystectomy is that it’s been proven to have a 14% higher cancer removal rate than traditional surgery.

Laparoscopic Surgery

Laparoscopy is a surgical technique that gives your doctor access to the bladder without having to make large incisions in the skin.

Using a laparoscope - a thin tube with a light and camera attached – your doctor can access the bladder in order to perform biopsies, cancerous tissue removal, and organ removal.

Benefits of Laparoscopic Surgery

  • Increased precision and accuracy during the procedure
  • Less bleeding and pain after surgery
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Faster recovery times
  • Less scarring

Another laparoscopic surgical option is single-incision laparoscopy, which uses a single incision in the belly button for less pain and scarring.

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery is a surgical technique used to kill bladder cancer cells by freezing them.

During the procedure, an instrument called a cryoprobe delivers liquid nitrogen directly to the cells or tumor, freezing and killing the diseased tissue.

Your doctor will use an MRI or ultrasound to monitor the direction and application of the cryoprobe during surgery. Once the cancerous cells are destroyed, the probe is removed and the body naturally absorbs the tissue.

Benefits of Cryosurgery

  • Minimally invasive
  • Requires a single incision
  • Can sometimes be done with local anesthesia
  • Less pain, bleeding and scarring
  • Can sometimes be done as an outpatient procedure
  • Shorter recovery times
  • Less expensive than more invasive surgical options

If you choose to have bladder cancer surgery, your urology specialist may also want to discuss bladder reconstruction or the use of neobladders as part of your recovery process.

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