Follow-up after treatment for bladder cancer

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for bladder cancer is often shared among the specialists, such as your urologist and oncologist, and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • blood in the urine (pee) (hematuria)
  • a need to urinate more often than usual (frequent urination)
  • an intense need to urinate (urgent urination)
  • burning or pain during urination
  • difficulty urinating
  • low back pain or pain in the pelvis
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

The chance that bladder cancer will come back (recur) is greatest within 2 years, so you will need close follow-up during this time.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for bladder cancer are usually scheduled every 3 to 6 months for the first 2 years then every year after that. Your doctor may want to continue frequent follow-up for more than 2 years. This depends on factors such as stage, risk group and the treatments you have had.

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. They may also ask about any symptoms you have.

Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:

  • a pelvic exam or digital rectal exam (DRE)
  • feeling for swollen lymph nodes in the pelvis and groin
  • feeling the abdomen for an enlarged liver

Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • cystoscopy and urine cytology to check for cancer (if your bladder isn’t removed as part of your cancer treatment)
  • blood tests to check your overall health and how your kidneys are working
  • CT urography, CT scan or ultrasound to check for cancer in the pelvis and abdomen
  • x-ray or CT scan of the chest to check if the cancer has spread to the lungs

If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss a plan for your treatment and care.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.

Expert review and references

  • Alberta Health Services . Muscle Invasive and Locally Advanced/Metastatic Bladder Cancer Clinical Practice Guideline GU-002 (Version 5) . Alberta Health Services ; 2013 :
  • American Cancer Society . After Bladder Cancer Treatment . 2016 :
  • Cancer Care Ontario . Bladder Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment and Follow-up Care Pathway Map (Version 2017.02) . 2017 :
  • Chang SS, Bochner BH, Chou R, et al . Treatment of non-metastatic muscle-invasive bladder cancer: AUA/ASCO/ASTRO/SUO Guideline . Journal of Urology . 2017 .
  • Chang SS, Boorjian SA, Chou R, et al . Diagnosis and treatment of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer: AUA/SUO Guideline . Journal of Urology . 2016 .
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Bladder Cancer (Version 5.2018).
  • Penn Medicine . All About Bladder Cancer . University of Pennsylvania ; 2017 :