These cancers have reached the outside of the bladder and might have grown into nearby tissues or organs.
Transurethral resection (TURBT) is typically done first to help determine how far the cancer has grown. Radical cystectomy (removal of the bladder and nearby lymph nodes) is then the standard treatment. Partial cystectomy is seldom an option for stage III cancers.
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemo) is often given before surgery. It can shrink the tumor, which may make surgery easier. This can be especially useful for T4a tumors, which have grown outside the bladder. The chemo may also kill any cancer cells that could already have spread to other areas of the body. This approach helps patients live longer than cystectomy alone. When chemo is given first, surgery to remove the bladder is delayed. The delay is not a problem if the chemo causes the bladder cancer to shrink, but it can be harmful if the tumor continues to grow during chemotherapy.
Some patients get chemo after surgery (adjuvant treatment) to kill any areas of cancer cells left after surgery that are too small to see. Chemo given after cystectomy may help patients stay cancer-free longer, but so far it’s not clear if it helps them live longer.
An option for some patients with single, small tumors might be treatment with a second (and more extensive) transurethral resection (TURBT) followed by a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. If this isn’t successful and cancer is found when cystoscopy is repeated, the patient might need cystectomy.
For patients who can’t have a major operation because of other serious health problems, treatment options might include TURBT, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or some combination of these.