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What to Know About Radiation Treatment for Bladder Cancer

What to Know About Radiation Treatment for Bladder Cancer

Radiation treatment is also called radiotherapy. It’s 1 way to treat bladder cancer. This type of treatment is not used as often as surgery. It is often used along with chemotherapy.

The goal of radiation is to kill cancer cells. It works by directing strong X-rays at the tumor.

To get this treatment, you’ll see a radiation oncologist. This doctor sets your treatment plan. The plan tells what kind of radiation you’ll have and how long the treatment will last. Your radiation oncologist can tell you what to expect during treatment and how you may feel during and after the treatment.

To help deal with the medical information and remember all of your questions, it is helpful to bring a family member or close friend with you to your appointment with the radiation oncologist. In addition, bringing a written list of concerns will make it easier for you to remember your questions about radiation therapy. 

Your radiation oncologist may do some imaging tests to decide on your treatment. Imaging tests take pictures inside your body. They help show where you need treatment. These may include X-rays and computed tomography scans (CT scans). You may have the same tests after treatment to see how well it worked.

Uses of radiation therapy for bladder cancer

Your doctor may recommend radiation for you in any of the following situations: 

  • You have stage I, II, or III cancer and have had a transurethral resection. Radiation may be given along with chemotherapy to lower the risk that the cancer will come back.

  • You have stage I, II, or III cancer and aren't healthy enough to have surgery. Radiation may be used alone or along with chemotherapy. 

  • You have stage IV cancer that has not spread to distant parts of the body. Your doctor may combine radiation with chemotherapy to try to shrink the cancer before surgery  

  • You have stage IV cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body. Radiation may be used alone or with chemotherapy to try to shrink or slow the growth of the cancer and relieve any symptoms you may be having. 

How you get radiation for bladder cancer

Your radiation oncologist chooses your treatment plan. A radiation therapist gives you the radiation. The type of radiation to treat bladder cancer is called external radiation. The radiation comes from a machine. It’s directed to the tumor from outside of your body. You can’t feel the radiation. You usually get treatments once a day for 5 days in a row. You’ll do this for 5 to 7 weeks. Each session takes only a few minutes. You don’t need to stay overnight in a hospital.