Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is sometimes referred to as “superficial bladder cancer” because the cancer cells are contained in the bladder lining and have not invaded the muscle or the deeper layers of the bladder. Superficial does NOT mean this should not be taken seriously.

Non-invasive bladder cancer has a very high survival rate. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology the five year survival rate for non-invasive bladder cancer is about 93%. It is the most commonly diagnosed, with over 70% of bladder cancers diagnosed at this stage. Since bladder cancer tends to recur, patients diagnosed with non-invasive bladder cancer need to be scrupulous about maintaining their prescribed checkups.

The treatments for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer are different from more advanced disease. Non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is often treated by removal of the tumor. In addition, intravascular therapy (application of an anti-cancer agent directly into the bladder) is sometimes recommended. The most often used intravascular therapy is BCG (bacillus Calmette-Guerin). BCG is a modified tuberculosis bacterium that was developed many years ago as a vaccine against TB for children. It is administered in solution directly into the bladder using a catheter where it is thought to stimulate the immune system to reject the cancer cells.

While non-muscle invasive bladder cancer is relatively easily treated and has an excellent survival rate, it also has a nasty habit of recurring. Most patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer receive frequent exams from their urologists so that any recurrences are found and treated early before they have time to spread. Vigilance is the best friend of someone with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. Due to its high rate of reoccurrence, it is very important to talk to your doctor about and comply with his/her recommendations for periodic examinations.

Recurrences that are caught early are the most treatable, but left undetected could progress to more serious disease.

Suggested Reading

From the American Urological Society

From the American Cancer Society