Bladder Cancer Treatments
Derived from a weakened strain of a tuberculosis vaccine, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is a commonly used type of immunotherapy in the fight against bladder cancer. BCG has been found to eliminate bladder cancer cells and prevent new ones from appearing, which is especially helpful for this disease because it is known to reoccur.
BCG is commonly used in early stage bladder cancer patients. The treatment, which is a liquid, is placed inside the bladder through a long, narrow catheter. With a 60 percent success rate, BCG is the most widely used type of immunotherapy in bladder cancer.
When compared to conventional bladder cancer treatments, which includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, immunotherapy is a relatively new type of cancer treatment. Also called biologic therapy, immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight a disease. Immunotherapy drugs are known to have fewer side effects than conventional treatments and improve overall survival rates.
In addition to BCG, there are only a handful of immunotherapy drugs used to treat bladder cancer:
Interferon is a naturally occurring chemical that the body produces, predominantly in response to a viral infection. Doctors use interferon alfa-2b, which is synthetically produced interferon to treat bladder cancer. It is also sometimes used in combination with BCG.
Keyhole Limpet Hemocyanin (KLH)
Since 1997, KLH has been used with success in Europe to treat bladder cancer. KLH, which is derived from a sea snail called the Giant Keyhole Limpet, is only being used in the United States as an investigational treatment. However, early studies in the U.S. show that it is effective for treating early stage bladder cancer and has more predictable results than BCG.
Today, immunotherapy is becoming so widely used that it is becoming a conventional treatment as well.
Preventing the Recurrence of Bladder Cancer
Even with emerging treatments like immunotherapy, bladder cancer patients are faced with the reality that bladder cancer is known to reoccur. While there are no proven ways to prevent recurrent bladder cancer, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:
The toxins in cigarettes are known to increase the risk to bladder cancer.
Drink plenty of water
Water is a great way to flush out your bladder and remove potentially harmful substances from your system.
Limit Workplace Chemical Exposure
There are many workplace chemicals that are known toxins. Take precautions, including using protective clothing, to limit your contact with such contaminants.
Return for Annual Checkups
Bladder cancer patients who have been medically cleared by their doctors following treatment should continually return for annual bladder exams. These checkups can help catch any disease before it starts.
Get the Medical Treatment You Deserve
Bladder cancer patients deserve the most effective and aggressive treatment available, but this can be difficult to find. Many patients are not sure where to turn for the most current information about treatment options and other medical decisions. Our patient advocates (PAs) can help you unravel confusing information about immunotherapy and the other medical treatments you might be facing. Contact us today to learn more.
Askeland, Eric, et al. “Bladder Cancer Immunotherapy: BCG and Beyond.” Advanced Urology. 2012. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3388311/
Lamm, DL. “Keyhole limpet hemocyanin immunotherapy of bladder cancer: laboratory and clinical studies.” European Association of Urology. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10828686