Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. The aim is to destroy cancer cells while causing the least possible damage to healthy cells. Chemotherapy drugs are usually injected into a vein or given as tablets. In intravesical chemotherapy the drugs are put directly into the bladder using a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) inserted through the urethra.
Learn more about:
- When is intravesical chemotherapy used?
- How is intravesical chemotherapy given?
- Side effects of intravesical chemotherapy
- Video: What is chemotherapy?
When is intravesical chemotherapy used?
Intravesical chemotherapy is used mainly for low-to medium-risk non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. It helps prevent the cancer coming back (recurrence). This method of giving chemotherapy can’t reach cancer cells outside the bladder lining or in other parts of the body, so it’s not suitable for muscle-invasive bladder cancer.
How is intravesical chemotherapy given?
Each treatment is called an instillation. People with a low risk of recurrence usually have one instillation straight after TURBT surgery. The chemotherapy solution is left in the bladder for 60 minutes and then drained out through a catheter.
People with a medium risk of recurrence may have instillations once a week for six weeks. This is usually done as a day procedure in hospital. The chemotherapy solution is left in the bladder for up to two hours and then drained through a catheter. You may have to change position every 15 minutes so the solution washes over the entire bladder.
While you are having a course of intravesical chemotherapy, your doctor may advise you to use contraception.
Side effects of intravesical chemotherapy
Because intravesical chemotherapy puts the drugs directly into the bladder, it has fewer side effects than systemic chemotherapy (when the drugs reach the whole body).
The main side effect is bladder inflammation (cystitis). Signs of cystitis include wanting to pass urine more often or a burning feeling when urinating. Drinking plenty of fluids can help. If you develop a bladder infection, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics. In some people, intravesical chemotherapy may cause a rash on the hands or feet. Tell your doctor if this occurs.
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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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