Metastatic bladder cancer treatments

Bladder cancer that spreads to other areas of the body (metastatic bladder cancer) is difficult to treat. You may need to adjust your expectations for treatment if you have metastatic bladder cancer. Rather than hoping for a cure, the goal of metastatic bladder cancer treatment may be slowing the cancer and maintaining your quality of life.

Discuss your treatment goals with your doctor. Together you can consider your prognosis and your expectations for treatment. You may choose a treatment that offers the greatest chance at extending your life, even if it comes with a risk of harsh side effects. Or you may want to avoid the risk of side effects and choose a treatment that makes you comfortable.


Chemotherapy uses drugs that kill fast-growing cells, such as cancer cells. You typically receive a combination of chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment. Which drugs you receive depends on your cancer and your overall health.

Chemotherapy regimens commonly used to treat metastatic bladder cancer include:

  • Cisplatin chemotherapy combinations. Combinations using cisplatin are particularly effective against bladder cancer, but they carry a risk of serious side effects, such as infections, hair loss, kidney damage, nerve damage (neuropathy) and inflammation of the digestive tract. For this reason, these combinations are used only in people who are healthy enough to endure the side effects.
  • Carboplatin chemotherapy combinations. Carboplatin combined with other chemotherapy drugs may have fewer side effects than cisplatin, but still can have many similar side effects. It may be an option if you have other health problems.
  • Other chemotherapy drugs. Treatment with other drug combinations or treatment with individual chemotherapy drugs may be options if other combinations haven't worked or if you prefer to forgo the side effects of more powerful combinations.

Chemotherapy side effects will depend on the particular drugs you receive. Common side effects include fatigue, easy bruising and bleeding, increased risk of infections, nausea and vomiting, and hair loss. Your doctor can tell you which side effects are most likely with your treatment.

Oct. 03, 2017 See more In-depth