Bladder Cancer Treatment in the UK

Introduction: What is Bladder Cancer?

The bladder is a hollow organ in the body’s pelvic region that stores urine before it is expelled from the body. Bladder cancer begins in the organ’s lining when these cells grow and multiply uncontrollably. 

Bladder cancer is of different types, depending upon how the cells appear under the microscope. The three most common types of bladder cancer are:

  • Urothelial carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma

Though the cause of bladder cancer is unclear, smoking is a high-risk factor for the condition. Bladder cancer usually affects older adults; men are four times more likely to develop this condition.

Bladder cancer life expectancy depends upon the stage at the time of diagnosis. The average five-year life expectancy of people with bladder cancer is around 77%.

How is Bladder Cancer Treated?

Bladder cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer and its advancement. Treatment options differ for early-stage, non-invasive, and advanced muscle-invasive bladder cancer. 

Bladder cancer treatment is usually performed by a multidisciplinary team of experts comprising a urologist, clinical oncologist, pathologist and radiation oncologist. The five standard treatment options for bladder cancer are:

  • Surgery

This is usually the first line of treatment for early-stage, non-invasive carcinomas. A surgery called Transurethral Resection (TURBT) with fulguration and intravesical therapy within 24 hours is generally performed. Stage 0 cancers rarely require extensive surgery.

Radical cystectomy and lymph node dissection are usually required in advanced urinary bladder cancer cases. Surgery is usually followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells in the body. 

  • Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy or radiotherapy uses high-energy x-rays to damage and destroy cancer cells. External beam radiation is the most common form of radiation therapy used in cancer treatment in which the radiation source is placed externally to the body. The radiation therapy regime consists of several sessions over a specific time duration, depending upon the cancer stage and its extent of spread. 

Radiation therapy is usually never used as a sole or primary treatment for bladder cancer. It is given in combination with other treatments like surgery and chemotherapy. After surgery, combined radiation and chemotherapy, called chemoradiation, are used as adjuvant therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. In advanced bladder cancer cases, radiation may be used as palliative treatment to relieve symptoms like bleeding and pain.

Radiation therapy is known to cause some side effects. Your doctor will discuss these symptoms with you before starting treatment. Most of your side effects usually go away after treatment is completed.

  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a standard cancer treatment that uses drugs to damage and destroys cancer cells, preventing them from growing and multiplying. Chemotherapy is given as per a regime or schedule that consists of a specific number of cycles over a period of time.

Two types of chemotherapy are used for bladder cancer treatment:

  • Intravesical chemotherapy

Also called local chemotherapy, drugs are delivered into the bladder via a catheter inserted into the urethra. This local treatment destroys the superficial cancer cells and is preferred for localised cancer that has not reached the bladder wall or when the tumour cells have spread to the other organs.

  • Systemic chemotherapy

This is a common form of chemotherapy used for bladder cancer. Since the drugs are given orally or by IV, this form of chemotherapy is also called systemic chemotherapy.

Your doctor will recommend the most suitable chemotherapy treatment based on the stage of your bladder cancer. Discuss with your doctor your chemotherapy schedule, whether you need it before or after surgery and the side effects you can expect.

Chemotherapy side effects during your bladder cancer treatment depend on factors like the type of drug, combination regime, and drug dosage. Common side effects include nausea, fatigue, increased infection risk, loss of appetite, and taste changes.

Immunotherapy is a newer cancer treatment that uses drugs which stimulate the body’s defence mechanism to fight the cancer cells. Immunotherapy can be given locally or as

systemic therapy. Since different immunotherapy drugs cause different side effects, discuss what you can expect during your bladder cancer treatment with your doctor.

Targeted therapy is a biological therapy in which drugs target specific genes, proteins, or environments that promote cancer growth. The drugs can identify the cancerous cells and attack them while sparing the healthy surrounding cells. Due to this, side effects due to targeted therapy are fewer than those with chemotherapy. Not all targeted therapy drugs work for all types of cancers, so a few genomic and laboratory analyses are performed to understand the cancer cells. Many targeted therapy drugs are used in clinical trials. 

How Can Klarity Oncology Help?

It is normal to feel confused and overwhelmed about your cancer diagnosis. You must always make informed decisions about your treatment plans. At Klarity Oncology, we understand the importance of prompt, specialised care for cancer. 

Our engaging patient management platform allows you to seek consultations with the top oncologists in the UK and seek a second opinion anytime during your cancer treatment journey. Our cancer care team is always available to support you through your cancer care journey and keeps you informed about your appointments and follow-ups.

Bladder Cancer Cost in the UK

On hearing about a cancer diagnosis, one of the first few questions that crop up in our minds is, “How much will the treatment cost?” The financial impact of cancer diagnosis and treatment can be overwhelming, and it is essential to understand the expected cost earlier. Most people undergoing bladder cancer treatment in the UK can find easy access to treatment. 

Treatment for early-stage bladder cancers is affordable due to the lesser duration of treatment and reduced risk of recurrences. Over 50% of the bladder cancer treatment costs were due to monitoring and surveillance treatments, while around 30% of the charges were due to complications that may arise during treatment.

How is Bladder Cancer Treatment Cost Calculated?

Several factors impact the cost of your bladder cancer treatment in the UK, and these include:

  • Type of bladder cancer
  • Stage and grade of cancer at the time of diagnosis
  • Length and duration of the treatment
  • Travelling and associated costs involved throughout your treatment
  • Health insurance 
  • Presence or absence of supplemental health insurance
  • Medications required
  • Surgical costs
  • Doctor fees
  • Laboratory and other diagnostic tests
  • Costs involved in radiation and chemotherapy sessions

After evaluating your bladder cancer and the factors mentioned above, your doctor will give you a calculated estimate of your expected treatment cost. Feel free to ask any queries and concerns you have about the same. It is essential to keep a buffer during financial planning as treatment costs may increase based on your treatment progress.

Talk to Us

At Klarity Oncology, we support patients throughout their cancer journey and provide compassionate care. If you need help with consultations, a second opinion, or any other support during your bladder cancer treatment in the UK, reach out to us. We are here for you!

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