Surgery for non-invasive bladder cancer

Surgery is the main treatment for non-invasive bladder cancer.

Transurethral resection of a bladder tumour (TURBT)

During this operation, the surgeon inserts a cystoscope into your bladder. They then remove the tumour or tumours using instruments that are passed through the cystoscope. They may use a mild electrical current (cauterisation) to stop any bleeding.

Sometimes, blue light cystoscopy (PDD) or narrow band imaging are used during surgery to help your doctor remove the tumour or tumours. The tumour will then be examined to check the stage and grade.

Some people may have another TURBT operation two to six weeks after the first. Your doctor may recommend this if:

  • you have a high-risk non-invasive bladder cancer – to make sure all of the tumour has been removed
  • biopsy samples taken during your first operation didn’t contain cells from the bladder muscle layer.

When the results of your first operation are ready, your doctor will explain if you need a further TURBT operation.

Surgery to remove the bladder (cystectomy)

A cystectomy is an operation to remove the bladder. It is sometimes recommended if you have a high risk non-invasive bladder cancer that has come back.

Being advised to have your bladder removed when you have a non-invasive bladder cancer can be hard to accept. Your doctors will weigh up the benefits of treatments that aim to keep the bladder against the risk of the cancer spreading.

If you do have your bladder removed, the surgeon will create a new way for you to pass urine (urinary diversion). Your urologist or specialist nurse can give you more information about what this involves.

Having your bladder removed is major surgery. But with support from family, friends, health professionals and support organisations, people usually manage to cope well with a cystectomy.

There is more information about cystectomy and urinary diversion in our section about invasive and advanced bladder cancer.

Back to Surgery explained

Who might I meet?

A team of specialists will plan your surgery. This will include a surgeon who specialises in your type of cancer.