Life after treatment for bladder cancer
For most people, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.
Some people say that they feel pressure to return to “normal life”. It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a new daily routine at your own pace. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.
Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who have had bladder cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.
For more on this, see Living well after cancer
Learn more about:
- Follow-up appointments
- Dealing with feelings of sadness
- Looking after yourself
- If bladder cancer returns
If there are no signs of cancer after treatment ends, you will have regular appointments to monitor your health, manage any ongoing side effects and check that the cancer hasn’t come back or spread.
How often you see your doctor will depend on the cancer type and treatments. During the check-ups, you can discuss how you’re feeling and mention any concerns, and you may have tests such as CT scans and x-rays. People who still have a bladder will have regular follow-up cystoscopies because a cystoscopy is the best way to find bladder cancer that has come back.
The cystoscopy may be done in hospital in the outpatient department under local anaesthetic or in an operating theatre under general anaesthetic. Depending on the stage and grade of the bladder cancer you had, you will need a follow-up cystoscopy every 3–12 months. This may continue for several years or for the rest of your life, but will become less frequent over time. Between follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any symptoms or health problems.
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.
Talk to your GP, because counselling or medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Cancer Council may also run a counselling program in your area.
Watch our webinars for information and insights that can help with the challenges you may face now that treatment is finished.
Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain, so it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Cancer Council has free booklets and programs to help you during and after treatment.
Call 13 11 20 to find out more, or see Managing cancer side effects, Exercise after a cancer diagnosis, Complementary therapies, Emotions and cancer, Nutrition and cancer, Sexuality, intimacy and cancer, Fertility and cancer, and Living well after cancer.
Alternative therapies are therapies used instead of conventional medical treatments. These are unlikely to be scientifically tested, may prevent successful treatment of the cancer and can be harmful. Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies as a cancer treatment.
If bladder cancer returns
Sometimes bladder cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. If the cancer recurs and you still have a bladder, the cancer can usually be removed while it is still in the early stages. This will require a cystoscopy under general anaesthetic. If this isn’t possible, your doctor may consider removal of the bladder (cystectomy).
Some people need other types of treatment, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiation therapy. The treatment you have will depend on the stage, grade and risk category of the cancer and your preferences.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Prof Dickon Hayne, Professor of Urology, UWA Medical School, The University of Western Australia, Chair of the Bladder, Urothelial and Penile Cancer Subcommittee, ANZUP Cancer Trials Group, and Head of Urology, South Metropolitan Health Service, WA; A/Prof Tom Shakespeare, Director, Radiation Oncology, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Lismore Public Hospitals, NSW; Helen Anderson, Genitourinary Cancer Nurse Navigator (CNS), Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; BEAT Bladder Cancer Australia; Mark Jenkin, Consumer; Dr Ganessan Kichenadasse, Lead, SA Cancer Clinical Network, Commission of Excellence and Innovation in Health, and Medical Oncologist, Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, SA; A/Prof James Lynam, Medical Oncology Staff Specialist, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Jack McDonald, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer and Blood Disorders, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Prof Shomik Sengupta, Consultant Urologist, Eastern Health and Professor of Surgery, Eastern Health Clinical School, Monash University, VIC.
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