Bladder Cancer

Managing side effects

Here’s encouraging news about the possible side effects of bladder cancer treatment – with supportive care, you can manage or even prevent many of them.

Not everyone who is treated for bladder cancer will experience the same side effects. Whether you have a particular side effect depends on such things as your age, your overall health, your specific cancer and your treatment plan.

Side effects differ in regard to timing. Short-term side effects occur during treatment and usually end when treatment ends. Long-term side effects may not go away completely for months or years after treatment; a few may be permanent. A third kind, late effects, occurs at least six months after treatment ends.

See below for the most common side effects of bladder cancer treatment.

Help for side effects

Following are examples of supportive care for two common side effects.

Nausea and vomiting – Drugs that help prevent and control nausea and vomiting are called antiemetics. A combination of antiemetics may be used, and they may be started before your cancer treatment begins if the treatment is likely to provoke either. Antiemetics must be taken at the specific intervals your doctor prescribes.

Nondrug techniques also may help – for example, acupuncture or progressive muscle relaxation. In addition, eat several small meals each day, eat a light meal a few hours before (non-surgical) treatment, drink plenty of liquids in small amounts, avoid unpleasant odors, and rest after eating (but don’t lie flat).

Fatigue – Regular exercise (such as walking or yoga) is one of the best ways to help reduce symptoms of fatigue. In addition, ask your doctor for help managing symptoms that may contribute to fatigue, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, and depression. For severe fatigue, your doctor may prescribe a short course of a psychostimulant drug, which can help improve your alertness and raise your energy during the day.

Other tips: Do only the most important activities, schedule them for times of the day when you feel the most energetic, and ask family and friends for help. Sit down when washing or grooming yourself. Eat a well-balanced diet. Try deep-breathing exercises. Pray or meditate. Enjoy a massage. Take short naps frequently, and try to get eight hours of sleep each night.

Most common side effects based on type of bladder cancer treatment

Treatment Short-term side effects Long-term side effects Late effects
Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT)
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Bleeding or burning sensation when urinating
  • Blocked urine flow
  • Incontinence
  • Infection
  • Other sexual side effects
 
Cystectomy and urinary diversion
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Bleeding
  • Pain 
  • Swelling 
  • Limited activities
  • Infection
  • Incontinence
  • Blocked urine flow
  • Digestive issues (slow digestion/constipation, diarrhea)
  • Mild anemia
  • Pouch stones
  • Scars
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Chronic pain
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Nighttime incontinence
  • Erectile dysfunction (men)
  • Menopausal symptoms (women)
  • Infertility
  • Other sexual side effects
  • Negative body image
  • Other emotional or pyschological effects
  • Lymphedema
Radiation therapy
  • Skin sensitivity (redness, dryness, peeling, itchiness)
  • Anemia
  • Hair loss (in treatment area)
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Burning sensation while urinating 
  • Frequent urination
  • Bleeding from the bladder (blood in the urine)
  • Bleeding from rectum
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Easy brusing or bleeding
  • Erectile dysfunction (men)
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Chronic radiation cystitis
  • Incontinence
  • Infertility
  • Lymphedema
Chemotherapy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neutropenia (which increases risk of infection)
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin and nail changes
  • Fatigue
  • Menopausal symptoms (women)
  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve problems)
  • Cognitive dysfunction (forgetfulness or trouble concentrating)
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart problems)
  • Cataracts
  • Infertility
  • Heart failure
  • Abnormal liver function
  • Osteoporosis
Intravesical therapies (placed into the bladder)
BCG
  • Flu-like symptoms (chills, mild fever, fatigue)
  • Burning feeling in the bladder
  • Bleeding from the bladder (blood in the urine)
  • Frequent urination
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
   
Synthetic interferon
  • Muslce aches
  • Bone pain
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting 
   
Chemotherapy
  • Irritation and burning feeling in the bladder
  • Frequent urination
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
 
 

A sense of control

When you talk to your doctor about options for treating your cancer, ask questions about possible side effects and supportive care for them. Knowing about side effects and their treatments will help you feel more in control. You’ll also recognize side effects sooner, which means you can seek care more quickly. Managing side effects successfully will help you feel better and improve your quality of life, making it more likely that you’ll finish the treatment and increase the possibility of cure.

Questions to ask your doctor

Ask your oncologist specific questions about possible side effects when discussing your treatment options. These questions can include the following:

  • What are the possible side effects of each of my treatment options?
  • How common are these side effects?
  • When are these side effects most likely to occur?
  • How do the benefits of the recommended cancer treatment compare with the risks?
  • How long will the side effects probably last?
  • Is there a way to decrease the possibility that these side effects will occur?
  • Are there medications available to relieve or prevent these side effects?
  • How will I be monitored for long-term side effects such as heart problems?
  • When should I contact a member of my health care team about a side effect?
  • Whom should I call?

For more in-depth information on side effects, please visit our Treatment Side Effects section.

 

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