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Coping with Bladder Cancer

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 physical and emotional changes that may occur and what resources are available to help you. Talking with your health care team about your concerns can give you a greater sense of control. Family and friends can also be important sources of support.

For resources on the common physical side effects of treatment for bladder cancer, see Bladder Cancer Treatment. For help with emotional side effects, see Emotions and Cancer.

For help after your cancer treatment has ended, see Cancer Survivorship and our booklet Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment.

Adjusting after urostomy

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. Adjusting to these changes can be hard. But, over time, many people are able to do a lot of what they did before surgery. Support from family members and your health care team can help you get used to life after urostomy surgery. Ask your nurse for resources and support groups that may be helpful. Learn more about Patient’s Concerns About Surgery.

Self-image and sexual problems

Body changes may affect your self-image and sex life after treatment. 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. For help communicating your feelings, see Self-Image and Sexuality.

The stress of follow-up care

It’s common for bladder cancer to come back, even after successful treatment. As a result, it is important for people who have been treated for bladder cancer to visit their doctor regularly to get certain follow-up exams or tests. This can be hard for a number of reasons, such as:

  • 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 information about how to prepare for follow-up appointments, see Follow-Up Medical Care.

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.

Cost of cancer treatment

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. Having cancer may also make it hard for you to work and pay your bills. The problems a person has related to the cost of treatment is known as financial toxicity. For 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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