Bladder Cancer: Diagnosis & Treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering

Pictured: S. Machele Donat Urologic surgeon S. Machele Donat is one of several surgeons expert in nerve-sparing techniques and bladder reconstruction procedures that can help preserve sexual and urinary function.

Advances in diagnostic tools and new therapies for bladder cancer developed over the past few decades have greatly improved outcomes for people with this disease. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, our team of experts not only is among the most experienced in the field, managing the care of hundreds of people with bladder cancer annually, but also functions as a tightly knit unit uniquely adept at rapidly assessing, anticipating, and meeting the needs of patients and family members.

The highly integrated team includes world-class specialists in surgery, chemotherapy, radiology, pathology, and nursing. Our surgeons and oncologists work in the same building, regularly visiting patients no matter where they happen to be in the course of their treatment. Our nurses are experts in caring for the complex needs of patients undergoing outpatient chemotherapy, as well as those recovering from surgery and unusual wounds.

Pictured: Bernard Bochner
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Memorial Sloan Kettering experts discuss their multidisciplinary approach to identifying and treating bladder cancer.

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Your team starts by customizing a treatment plan based on a sophisticated reading of the location and depth of the cancer and other medical conditions you may have.

For many people with early-stage bladder cancer, we can successfully treat the disease with minimally invasive surgery followed by a short-term follow-up treatment called bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) therapy to prevent the cancer from returning. Later-stage cancers that have spread beyond the bladder’s inner layer may require surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these therapies.

Because our teams work so closely together, we are able to ensure that our patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer who are receiving chemotherapy prior to surgery start their regimen as rapidly as possible. This promptness in treatment has been shown to produce better outcomes for our patients. Other institutions may take twice as long to complete this step.

If the bladder is removed as part of treatment, our surgeons can often offer innovative techniques to preserve or reconstruct it in ways that enable you to achieve a very high quality of life. In addition, we ensure that you have access to innovative techniques, new drugs, and clinical trials often not available elsewhere.

Our researchers are investigating better ways of diagnosing and treating bladder cancer based on newly discovered genetic information. By studying the DNA of bladder cancer cells, we are accelerating the development and implementation of more personalized treatments.

For example, our researchers recently found that a kidney cancer drug, everolimus, could be effective for a subset of bladder cancer patients whose tumors have a mutation in a gene called TSC1. We made this discovery by sequencing the entire genome of a bladder cancer patient’s tumor. Further research will identify additional mutations and disease pathways that can be targeted with precise therapies.