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Bladder Cancer


Bladder cancer is the second most common form of urological cancer after prostate cancer.  The disease is more common among men than women, and bladder cancer is strongly associated with tobacco use. When found and treated early, as often happens, the chances for survival are very good.

Symptoms usually include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent urination and/or painful urination

Why NorthShore

The John and Carol Walter Center for Urological Health offers centralized treatment and access for the breadth of needs a patient diagnosed with bladder cancer may require.  Walter Center Urologists are among the most experienced in the Chicago area at performing minimally-invasive surgery for bladder cancer.  Surgical oncologists from the Walter Center (board-certified urologists specially trained to surgically treat urological cancers) are part of a multidisciplinary team that includes physicians from NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center, including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and radiologists, who meet regularly to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design personalized treatment plans. This meeting of the minds provides each individual patient with an individualized care plan to create the path for the most successful outcome.


Bladder cancer is diagnosed through an internal exam and screenings that may include a urinalysis, CT scans, or a cytoscopy (a procedure where a thin instrument with a light and lens to view the bladder is inserted through the urethra). Tissue samples may also be taken during a cytoscopy.

If a diagnosis of bladder cancer is made, a physician will determine the severity or stage of the cancer, including whether it has spread to other areas of the body. 

Low Stage

For lower stages of bladder cancer, in which cancer has not spread beyond the bladder, treatment could include surgery to remove the cancerous cells on the innermost lining of the bladder. Usually these tumors are removed through the body’s opening without any visible incisions. This is often done as an outpatient surgery.

Some patients might experience recurrent polyps in the bladder.  These can normally be removed at the Walter Center or through Outpatient Surgery.  The polyps are not considered aggressive, but are monitored to make sure they do not become more concerning.

High Stage

For high stage, aggressive forms of bladder cancer, surgery to remove the entire bladder (radical cystectomy), along with chemotherapy or radiation, may be recommended.  Walter Center urologists have among the most experience in Chicago of performing minimally invasive robotic cystectomy to improve the patient’s operative experience. A radical cystectomy also removes the lymph nodes surrounding the bladder.  For men, the prostate and seminal vesicles are removed; in women, the uterus, ovaries and part of the vagina is removed.

Once a person’s bladder is removed, surgeons create a new way for urine to leave the body.  Several options exist following a radical cystectomy:

  • Neobladder: A bladder-like reservoir is created out of a piece of the patient’s intestine.  The reservoir is housed inside the body and attached to the patient’s urethra, enabling the patient to urinate normally.
  • Continent Urinary Diversion:  A small reservoir for urine is created using a section of the patient’s intestine.  Urine is drained through a small hole in the abdomen using a catheter.

  • Ileal Conduit: The urine drains into an external bag.

Walter Center Urologists are specialists in creating options to maximize the patient's quality of life, usually using the first two options if at all possible.

Following surgery, and in collaboration with medical and radiation oncologists at the NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended to destroy any remaining cancer cells.  Sometimes a combination of chemotherapy and radiation may be prescribed.

The patient-centered, multidisciplinary approach to care at the Walter Center empowers each patient to make decisions based on their personal needs after being presented with their options by our physicians.

Patient and Family Guide to BCG Treatment for Bladder Cancer:

This is YOUR journey and we want to facilitate it as much as possible by providing you with important information regarding treatment and answers to frequently asked questions. This guide provides information of what BCG is and what the treatments and symptoms will look like. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call our urology office at 847.503.3000 or send us a message on NorthShoreConnect for non-urgent matters.

Click here for the Patient and Family Guide to BCG Treatment

Bladder diet

This guide will help you identify foods and drinks that help or worsen your overactive bladder symptoms. If you have questions, please call our urology office at 847.503.3000 or send us a message on NorthShoreConnect for non-urgent matters.

Click here for the Bladder diet Guide

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 847.503.3000.