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Coping with Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer and its treatments may cause physical and emotional side effects. When you first learn that you have bladder cancer, you may wonder how you’re going to cope with the upcoming changes in your life. One step you can take is to be informed of the changes that may occur and what resources are available to help you. Speaking up about any problems you have can give you a greater sense of control. Your health care team can talk with you about ways to reduce these side effects, so you feel better.

For resources on the common physical side effects of treatment for bladder cancer, see Bladder Cancer Treatment. Learn more about side effects of cancer treatment and ways to manage them. For help with emotional side effects, see Emotions and Cancer.

Coping with changes in bladder or bowel habits

Bladder and bowel problems are among the most upsetting issues people face after cancer treatment. People often feel ashamed or fearful to go out in public. Their loss of control can happen after treatment for bladder, or other cancers.

Your surgery may have left you with no bladder or bowel control at all. Or perhaps you still have some control, but you make lots of sudden trips to the bathroom. The opposite problem can happen when a medicine you’re taking for pain causes constipation.

It’s important to tell your doctor about any changes in your bladder or bowel habits. Ask your doctor or nurse about

  • Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor
  • medicines that may help with constipation or other problems
  • services and support groups to help you cope with an ostomy

Coping with changes in body image

Bladder cancer and its treatment can change how you look and feel about yourself. For those who have a stoma and urostomy bag, getting used to them takes time. Some people need to learn how to use a catheter to empty their bladder, which is another big change. And if you have incontinence or problems controlling your bladder, it can be frustrating to deal with.

Know that you aren't alone in how you feel. Coping with these changes can be hard. But, over time, most people learn to adjust to them and move forward. People are still able to do a lot of what they did before surgery. For more information and ways to manage, see Urinary and Bladder Problems.

Learn more about how body changes may affect your self-image and sex life after treatment and ways to cope and communicate your feelings in Self-Image and Sexuality.

Coping with sexual problems

Some treatments for bladder cancer, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, or certain medicines, can cause short-term or long-term problems with sex. For example, having a cystectomy may affect the nerves and make it harder for men to have an erection. Women may have pain during sex or problems with lubrication and orgasm.

It’s important to discuss any issues and concerns you have about sex with your health care team before treatment. Knowing your thoughts ahead of time may help them plan your treatment.

Learn more about the sexual problems some cancer treatments can cause and ways to cope in Sexual Health Issues in Women with Cancer and Sexual Health Issues in Men with Cancer.

Coping with stress in dealing with follow-up care

It’s common for bladder cancer to come back, even after successful treatment. As a result, many people who have been treated for bladder cancer need to visit their doctor regularly to get certain follow-up exams or tests. Planning and scheduling these appointments can be stressful and time-consuming. Waiting for test results can cause anxiety and an ongoing fear of recurrence. The added costs of things such as copays, medicines, and parking and transportation fees only add to the stress.

For tips on how to deal with the fear of cancer coming back, see the section Coping with Fear of Recurrence on our New Normal page.

Coping with financial toxicity

Cancer is one of the most costly diseases to treat in the United States. Even if you have health insurance, you may face major financial challenges and need help dealing with the costs of bladder cancer treatment. The problems a person has related to the cost of treatment is known as financial toxicity. For tips and ways to cope, see  Managing Costs and Medical Information. To learn about financial toxicity and find out if you are at risk, see Financial Toxicity (Financial Distress) and Cancer Treatment.

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