Side Effects of Bladder Cancer Surgery
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We Take a Team Approach to Managing Side Effects
As with all cancer treatments, bladder cancer surgery can have some side effects. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), we will explain these potential side effects and discuss ways to help minimize or heal any problems.
- Transurethral Bladder Surgery: Typically, these bladder cancer surgery side effects of are mild and relatively brief. Often, patients are able to return home on the same day or day after the procedure, and can resume normal activities by about two weeks later. Some bleeding and pain during urination may occur immediately following surgery.
Another important consideration with transurethral bladder surgery is that cancer may recur in other parts of the bladder. Repeating this surgery numerous times can scar the bladder and make urine storage difficult. As a result, frequent urination may be necessary, or it may become difficult to control urination.
For people who experience many recurrences, another treatment approach is fulgaration, or burning tumors found during cytoscopy, instead of repeated transurethral bladder surgeries.
Cystectomy: A cystectomy is considered major surgery. The short-term risks include reactions to anesthesia, bleeding, blood clots and infections. There is usually pain after the operation, which can be decreased with medication.
- Partial Cystectomy: After surgery to remove part of the bladder, the remaining bladder may not hold as much urine, which can lead to more frequent urination. Also with the partial procedure, cancer may recur in another part of the bladder.
- Radical Cystectomy: There are several risks associated with this type of bladder cancer surgery, which is used to remove the entire bladder. There may be excessive bleeding, urinary tract infections, urine leakage (incontinence) and blockage of urine flow. Despite these possible side effects, this surgery may an option for treatment. An experienced surgeon can help minimize the risks of this procedure.
- Reconstructive Surgery: The possible side effects of urinary diversion and urostomy include wound infections, urine leaks, pouch stones and blockage of urine flow.
Managing Intimacy-Related Side Effects of Bladder Cancer
It is normal for people with bladder cancer to be concerned about physical and emotional changes following treatment that may impact intimacy. In particular, a radical cystectomy can lead to such changes. Your doctor will discuss any concerns, and work with other members of your care team to help minimize these bladder cancer side effects.
There are many options for ensuring that performance and intimacy are preserved.
- Sexual Side Effects for Men: Radical cystecomy can cause sexual side effects. In men, removal of the prostate gland and seminal vesicles mean semen will no longer be produced. Sperm continues to be made, but it is reabsorbed into the body. Men can still have orgasms but they are “dry,” meaning there is no semen. Nerve damage can sometimes prevent erections. If this occurs, it may improve over time, particularly for men under the age of 60. Newer surgical techniques can help lower the chance of impotence.
- Sexual Side Effects for Women: Because a radical cystectomy removes a portion of the vagina, sex may be uncomfortable after this type of bladder cancer surgery. Usually, intercourse is still possible. Nerves located along the sides of the vagina may be damaged during surgery, making it more difficult to have an orgasm. It may be possible to preserve these nerves, an option that your surgeon can discuss with you. For some women, the end of the urethra may be removed during surgery, which can reduce blood supply to the sexual areas and diminish arousal. Your surgeon can discuss whether this aspect of surgery can be avoided. To help minimize these bladder cancer side effects, vaginal reconstruction may be an option.
- Sexual Side Effects of Urostomy: Many men and women are concerned about how a urostomy may affect intimacy. Ensuring a correct fit and emptying the pouch before sex will help reduce the chance of a leak. A snug-fitting shirt can also help with this.
Our licensed mind-body therapists provide counseling for bladder cancer patients and their partners, and will work with the rest of your oncology team to help you get clear answers to all of your medical questions. We also provide referrals if you are interested in fertility procedures.
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