Options to Preserve or Reconstruct the Bladder

Most people with invasive bladder cancer have surgery to remove the bladder. Under certain conditions, however, our doctors may be able to keep the bladder intact by removing tumors through a minimally invasive procedure and then treating the cancer with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

In this approach, our surgeons remove the tumors with a cystoscope and our radiation therapists deliver radiation to the cancerous region within the bladder daily over seven or eight weeks. Simultaneously, chemotherapy is given in low doses to heighten the sensitivity of the cancer cells to the radiation.

If the tumors remain or recur after bladder preservation treatment, you may need to have surgery to remove the bladder.

The Neobladder Option

Depending on your particular case, our surgeons may offer you options for reconstructing the bladder. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, our surgeons are experienced in performing an innovative technique to create a new bladder, called a neobladder. Built from part of the small intestine, the neobladder is connected to the urethra, enabling you to urinate through the urethra in a normal fashion.

This approach has greatly enhanced quality of life for many of our patients, often eliminating the need for an external urine collection bag. In cases in which the urethra has been removed, surgeons can connect the new bladder to a small opening in the skin of the abdominal wall to drain urine, called a stoma.