Bladder Cancer and Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment (i.e., affects the entiry body) in which drugs are used to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs are administered orally, intravenously (through a vein), or in early bladder cancer, may be infused into the bladder through the urethra (called intravesical chemotherapy). Chemotherapy can be administered before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) or after surgery (adjuvant therapy).

Drugs commonly used to treat bladder cancer include thiotepa (Thioplex), mitomycin, and doxorubicin (Rubex). Intravesical chemotherapy (e.g., valrubicin [Valstar]) may be used to treat early bladder cancer as an alternative to surgery (e.g., bladder removal [cystectomy]). Side effects of chemotherapy drugs used to treat bladder cancer can be severe and include the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia
  • Bladder irritation
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive bleeding or bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Infection
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness

Publication Review By: Richard Levin, M.D., F.A.C.S., Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015