Other treatment options for bladder cancer

Biological therapy or Immunotherapy

Oncologists treat low grade and early stage cancers by inducing the immune system to fight the cancer cells and kill them. This is called biological therapy or immunotherapy. The most common form of biological therapy is Bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy (BCG). Moreover, this bacterium causes tuberculosis (TB). In BCG therapy, a catheter helps kill this this bacterium by insertion into the bladder.

Visual representation of a labelled urinary bladder

What is intravesical BCG

The BCG bacteria activate the immune system cells, which can fight any bladder cancer cells that are present. Moreover, this can be put into the bladder as a liquid (intravesical BCG). This treatment is for once a week for 6 weeks. It often begins shortly carrying out a TUR. A TUR (or transurethral resection) is a surgical procedure for the diagnosis of bladder cancer and removal of tumor lumps from the bladder.

Another immunotherapy option is interferons. IFNs are a group of signalling proteins that fight infection. A virus-infected cell releases interferons causes surrounding cells improve to their antiviral defences. Furthermore, synthetic versions of interferons help fight bladder cancer, sometimes in combination with BCG.

Possible side effects of immunotherapy

Common side effects of these drugs include:

  • Tiredness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Rash and skin allergies
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Besides, more serious side effects can occur. These drugs work by basically taking the brakes off the body’s immune system. Sometimes the immune system starts attacking other parts of the body. Consequently, this causes life-threatening problems in the lungs, intestines, liver, hormone-making glands, or other organs.

It is very important to report any new side effects to your health care team right away. However, if serious side effects do occur, oncologists stop treatment  and administer high doses of steroids to suppress your immune system.

Furthermore, read how to prevent bladder cancer.

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