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What Happens with Local (Intravesical) Chemotherapy for Bladder Cancer

For this treatment, chemotherapy drugs are placed directly into your bladder. The doctor does this with a catheter inserted through your urethra. When you get chemotherapy in this manner, the drugs affect only the cancer cells in your bladder. The drugs do not do anything to cancerous cells outside the bladder. This kind of chemotherapy is only used for stage 0 or stage I bladder cancer. These are the most common intravesical chemotherapy drugs:

  • Thiotepa

  • Mitomycin, sometimes combined with heating the inside of the bladder

  • Doxorubicin hydrochloride

  • Valrubicin 

  • Gemcitabine

Intravesical chemotherapy is commonly used after transurethral resection. It helps prevent superficial cancers from coming back.

You will probably have the procedure once a week for several weeks. You'll have it done in your doctor's office. Your doctor or nurse will insert a catheter into your bladder. Then he or she will insert the drugs through the catheter and remove the catheter.

You should not urinate for 1 to 2 hours after the drugs are put into your bladder. This allows the drugs to stay in your bladder long enough to kill cancer cells. When you urinate, the drugs will come out of your bladder in your urine.

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 12/30/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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