Treatment overview

Surgery is the main treatment for non-invasive bladder cancer. Tumours in the bladder can be removed using a cystoscope. Some people may only need surgery to cure the cancer. Most people have a one-off treatment of chemotherapy into the bladder (intravesical chemotherapy). This is usually done at the end of surgery or the day after.

After surgery, your doctor will assess the tumour to decide the risk level. This is the risk of the cancer coming back in the bladder lining or spreading into the muscle layer.

Non-invasive bladder cancer can be low, intermediate or high risk:

  • If you have a low-risk tumour, you won’t usually need any further treatment.
  • If you have an intermediate or high-risk bladder tumour, you usually need further treatment after surgery. Grade 3 tumours and CIS (carcinoma in situ) are always treated as high risk.

Once your doctors know what the risk level is, they can talk to you about the best treatment for you. They will describe the risks and benefits of each treatment and help you to reach a decision about treatment together.

Further treatment

This is usually with chemotherapy or a vaccine called BCG given directly into the bladder.

If you have a high-risk bladder cancer, sometimes your specialist will talk to you about deciding between BCG treatment or an operation to remove the bladder (cystectomy).

Treatment if the cancer comes back

In some people, bladder cancer can come back but still be successfully treated with surgery, chemotherapy or the BCG vaccine. We have more information about treatment if the cancer comes back.

Back to Understanding your diagnosis

Just been diagnosed

Just been diagnosed with cancer? We're here for you every step of the way. There are many ways we can help.

Staging and grading

The stage and grade of the cancer describes its size, if it has spread and how quickly it may grow.