Font Size

Bladder Cancer Treatment (Professional) (cont.)

Stage I Bladder Cancer

Note: Some citations in the text of this section are followed by a level of evidence. The PDQ editorial boards use a formal ranking system to help the reader judge the strength of evidence linked to the reported results of a therapeutic strategy. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Levels of Evidence for more information.)

Stage I bladder cancer is defined by the following TNM classification:

  • T1, N0, M0

Patients with stage I bladder tumors can be cured by a variety of treatments, even though the tendency for new tumor formation is high. In a series of patients with Ta or T1 tumors who were followed for a minimum of 20 years or until death, the risk of bladder recurrence following initial resection was 80%.[1] Patients at greatest risk of recurrent disease are those whose tumors are large, poorly differentiated, multiple, or associated with nuclear p53 overexpression.[2] In addition, patients with carcinoma in situ (Tis) or dysplasia of grossly uninvolved bladder epithelium are at greater risk of recurrence and progression.[1,3,4]

Transurethral resection (TUR) and fulguration are the most common and conservative forms of management. Careful surveillance of subsequent bladder tumor progression is important. One retrospective series addressed the value of performing a second TUR within 2 to 6 weeks of the first.[5][Level of evidence: 3iiDiv] A second TUR performed on 58 patients with T1 disease found that 14 patients (24%) had residual (T1) disease and 16 patients (28%) had muscle invasion (T2). Such information may change the definitive management options in these individuals.

Patients who require more aggressive forms of treatment are those with extensive multifocal recurrent disease and/or other unfavorable prognostic features. Segmental cystectomy is applicable to only a small minority of patients because of the tendency of bladder carcinoma to involve multiple regions of the bladder mucosa and to occur in areas that cannot be segmentally resected.

Intravesical therapy with thiotepa, mitomycin, doxorubicin, or bacillus Calmette Guérin (BCG) is most often used in patients with multiple tumors or recurrent tumors or as a prophylactic measure in high-risk patients after TUR. Administration of intravesical BCG combined with subcutaneous BCG following TUR was compared with TUR alone in patients with Ta and T1 lesions. Treatment with BCG delayed progression to muscle-invasive and/or metastatic disease, improved bladder preservation, and decreased the risk of death from bladder cancer.[6,7]

A randomized study of patients with superficial bladder cancer also reported a decrease in tumor recurrence in patients given intravesical and percutaneous BCG compared with controls.[8] Two nonconsecutive 6-week courses with BCG may be necessary to obtain optimal response.[9] Patients with a T1 tumor at the 3-month evaluation after a 6-week course of BCG and patients with Tis that persists after a second 6-week BCG course have a high likelihood of developing muscle-invasive disease and should be considered for cystectomy.[9,10,11] A randomized study that compared intravesical and subcutaneous BCG to intravesical doxorubicin showed better response rates and freedom from recurrence with the BCG regimen for recurrent papillary tumors as well as for Tis.[12] Preliminary results of one study have shown a possible survival benefit with maintenance BCG after a 6-week induction course.[13] Another study that compared alternating mitomycin and BCG with BCG alone, both given for 24 months, found that the efficacy was equal, but that the side effects of the combined regimen were slightly less.[14][Level of evidence: 1iiDiii] A similar trial comparing sequential mitomycin and BCG to mitomycin alone also found no major differences in toxic effects or efficacy.[15][Level of evidence: 1iiDiii] A randomized trial from the Swedish-Norwegian Bladder Cancer Group compared 2 years of intravesical treatment with mitomycin C versus BCG for patients at high risk for recurrence or progression. At 5 years, a significant improvement was noted in disease-free survival with BCG (P = .04); however, no difference was observed in tumor progression or overall survival between the two arms.[16]

Standard treatment options:

  1. TUR with fulguration.[17,18]
  2. TUR with fulguration followed by intravesical BCG.[6,8,10,11,14]
  3. TUR with fulguration followed by intravesical chemotherapy.[3,14]
  4. Segmental cystectomy (rarely indicated).[17]
  5. Radical cystectomy in selected patients with extensive or refractory superficial tumor.[19]
  6. Interstitial implantation of radioisotopes with or without external-beam radiation therapy.[20,21]

Treatment options under clinical evaluation:

  1. Use of chemoprevention agents after treatment to prevent recurrence.[22]
  2. Intravesical therapies.

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage I bladder cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Holmäng S, Hedelin H, Anderström C, et al.: The relationship among multiple recurrences, progression and prognosis of patients with stages Ta and T1 transitional cell cancer of the bladder followed for at least 20 years. J Urol 153 (6): 1823-6; discussion 1826-7, 1995.
  2. Smits G, Schaafsma E, Kiemeney L, et al.: Microstaging of pT1 transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder: identification of subgroups with distinct risks of progression. Urology 52 (6): 1009-13; discussion 1013-4, 1998.
  3. Igawa M, Urakami S, Shirakawa H, et al.: Intravesical instillation of epirubicin: effect on tumour recurrence in patients with dysplastic epithelium after transurethral resection of superficial bladder tumour. Br J Urol 77 (3): 358-62, 1996.
  4. Lacombe L, Dalbagni G, Zhang ZF, et al.: Overexpression of p53 protein in a high-risk population of patients with superficial bladder cancer before and after bacillus Calmette-Guérin therapy: correlation to clinical outcome. J Clin Oncol 14 (10): 2646-52, 1996.
  5. Herr HW: The value of a second transurethral resection in evaluating patients with bladder tumors. J Urol 162 (1): 74-6, 1999.
  6. Herr HW, Schwalb DM, Zhang ZF, et al.: Intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guérin therapy prevents tumor progression and death from superficial bladder cancer: ten-year follow-up of a prospective randomized trial. J Clin Oncol 13 (6): 1404-8, 1995.
  7. Lamm DL, Griffith JG: Intravesical therapy: does it affect the natural history of superficial bladder cancer? Semin Urol 10 (1): 39-44, 1992.
  8. Sarosdy MF, Lamm DL: Long-term results of intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy for superficial bladder cancer. J Urol 142 (3): 719-22, 1989.
  9. Coplen DE, Marcus MD, Myers JA, et al.: Long-term followup of patients treated with 1 or 2, 6-week courses of intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin: analysis of possible predictors of response free of tumor. J Urol 144 (3): 652-7, 1990.
  10. Catalona WJ, Hudson MA, Gillen DP, et al.: Risks and benefits of repeated courses of intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy for superficial bladder cancer. J Urol 137 (2): 220-4, 1987.
  11. Herr HW: Progression of stage T1 bladder tumors after intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin. J Urol 145 (1): 40-3; discussion 43-4, 1991.
  12. Lamm DL, Blumenstein BA, Crawford ED, et al.: A randomized trial of intravesical doxorubicin and immunotherapy with bacille Calmette-Guérin for transitional-cell carcinoma of the bladder. N Engl J Med 325 (17): 1205-9, 1991.
  13. Lamm DL, Crawford ED, Blumenstein B, et al.: Maintenance BCG immunotherapy of superficial bladder cancer: a randomized prospective Southwest Oncology Group study. [Abstract] Proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 11: A-627, 203, 1992.
  14. Rintala E, Jauhiainen K, Kaasinen E, et al.: Alternating mitomycin C and bacillus Calmette-Guerin instillation prophylaxis for recurrent papillary (stages Ta to T1) superficial bladder cancer. Finnbladder Group. J Urol 156 (1): 56-9; discussion 59-60, 1996.
  15. Witjes JA, Caris CT, Mungan NA, et al.: Results of a randomized phase III trial of sequential intravesical therapy with mitomycin C and bacillus Calmette-Guerin versus mitomycin C alone in patients with superficial bladder cancer. J Urol 160 (5): 1668-71; discussion 1671-2, 1998.
  16. Malmström PU, Wijkström H, Lundholm C, et al.: 5-year followup of a randomized prospective study comparing mitomycin C and bacillus Calmette-Guerin in patients with superficial bladder carcinoma. Swedish-Norwegian Bladder Cancer Study Group. J Urol 161 (4): 1124-7, 1999.
  17. Soloway MS: The management of superficial bladder cancer. In: Javadpour N, ed.: Principles and Management of Urologic Cancer. 2nd ed. Baltimore, Md: Williams and Wilkins, 1983, pp 446-467.
  18. Herr HW, Reuter VE: Evaluation of new resectoscope loop for transurethral resection of bladder tumors. J Urol 159 (6): 2067-8, 1998.
  19. Amling CL, Thrasher JB, Frazier HA, et al.: Radical cystectomy for stages Ta, Tis and T1 transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder. J Urol 151 (1): 31-5; discussion 35-6, 1994.
  20. Goffinet DR, Schneider MJ, Glatstein EJ, et al.: Bladder cancer: results of radiation therapy in 384 patients. Radiology 117 (1): 149-53, 1975.
  21. van der Werf-Messing B, Hop WC: Carcinoma of the urinary bladder (category T1NxM0) treated either by radium implant or by transurethral resection only. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 7 (3): 299-303, 1981.
  22. Lamm DL, Riggs DR, Shriver JS, et al.: Megadose vitamins in bladder cancer: a double-blind clinical trial. J Urol 151 (1): 21-6, 1994.
eMedicineHealth Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at or call 1-800-4-CANCER

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Some material in CancerNet™ is from copyrighted publications of the respective copyright claimants. Users of CancerNet™ are referred to the publication data appearing in the bibliographic citations, as well as to the copyright notices appearing in the original publication, all of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

Medical Dictionary