What Is BCG?
Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is the main intravesical therapy for early-stage bladder cancer. It’s made from a weakened strain of Mycobacterium Bovis, a vaccine for tuberculosis. BCG is a liquid drug that can be deposited directly into your bladder through a catheter. Intravesical immunotherapy works by prompting the immune system into attacking cancer cells.
The expert urologists at Urology of Greater Atlanta offer several treatment options for bladder cancer. When bladder cancers are caught early, they usually recommend BCG therapy. In severe cases, your doctor might suggest a removal procedure, including transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) and partial or radical cystectomy. All surgical treatments use the latest minimally invasive techniques.
Is BCG Treatment a Form of Chemotherapy?
BCG treatment and chemotherapy are both types of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer treatment. Chemotherapy is considered a systemic treatment because the drugs travel throughout the whole body to kill cancer cells.
However, BCG treatments are administered directly into the bladder. The BCG drug stimulates a person’s immune system to attack cancer cells in the bladder.
The American Cancer Society states that BCG treatment is usually used for stage 0 and stage 1 cancers, whereas chemotherapy can be used for any stage cancer if deemed necessary.
How Is BCG Treatment Done?
BCG treatment is a therapeutic medication that is placed into your bladder directly using urinary catheters. The catheter is inserted via the urethra (the tube that passes urine through the urinary system), and the BCG solution is passed through to the bladder.
The catheter is then usually removed, and then the solution is held in for 2 hours. Sometimes the catheter is clamped to prevent it from coming out.
Since BCG is a live vaccine, you must take certain precautions to prevent others from being exposed to it. You will be asked to:
- Sit down to pass urine
- Wash the skin in and around your genital area with soap and water after you pass urine
- Sanitize the toilet bowl after you have passed urine
- Wash your hands thoroughly after passing urine with soap and water.
You will also be asked to increase your fluid intake to flush the drug out of your bladder.
How Long Does BCG Treatment Last?
Weekly BCG treatments are usually administered for six weeks. To prevent cancerous cells from returning, your doctor may put you on maintenance treatment. The schedule is usually once a week for three weeks at 3, 6, and 12 months.
What Are the Side Effects of BCG Treatment for Bladder Cancer?
BCG is often taken in combination with other drugs and can cause flu-like symptoms, vomiting, euphoria, urinary tract infection, and nausea. Symptoms can typically be experienced a few days after the BCG treatment session. Less commonly, the BCG spreads throughout the body and affects all organs and tissues.
What Is the Success Rate of BCG Treatment for Bladder Cancer?
The American Urological Association states that the survival rate for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is favorable. The median survival rate for people surviving Stage 0 bladder cancer is 90.8 percent. For patients with stage-1 bladder tumors, the figure is 66.6%.
If you have concerns about bladder cancer or would like to know about the available treatment options, then make an appointment to speak to one of the urologists at Urology of Greater Atlanta. We have offices throughout Metro Atlanta, including Blue Ridge.