Make sure that you stay in touch with your healthcare provider. You should expect to return to your doctor for quite some time after treatment and surgery.
Follow-up is not the same for everyone. However, continuous observation will include some or all of the following:
- Imaging (e.g. CT scan) about every 3-6 months for 2-3 years; and then annually.
- Laboratory tests may be every 3-6 months for 2-3 years; and then once per year after. Kidney and liver function tests will be a part of these tests.
- Assessment for quality of life issues, such as urinary symptoms and sexual function.
If you had surgery, it takes time to heal. The time needed to recover is different for each person. It is common to feel weak or tired for a while. However, like any other major surgery, bladder surgery may have complications. Older patients and women are more likely to get complications after cystectomy.
There are some things you can do before surgery to help your recovery. If you smoke, try to get help so you can quit before surgery. You also need to make sure you eat right so that your body can heal and can cope with the changes.
Here are some possible side effects from surgery:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, like the veins in the legs. It sometimes happens after major surgery. Symptoms include swelling, pain and tenderness, often in the back of your legs. Your surgeon will give you medication and devices after surgery to help prevent DVT.
- Gastrointestinal (GI) problems. You may have problems with your bowel function right after surgery. This often happens after abdominal surgery. Your healthcare provider will take steps to monitor bowel function and avoid GI problems.
- Urinary diversion. Urinary diversion following bladder surgery is a big adjustment. You may need to learn how to remove urine from your body with a catheter. There also is potential for leakage from the stoma (opening) that is made to take away urine. Infections related to urinary diversion may occur, as may infections related to the kidneys.
You should learn as much as you can about urinary diversion before having one. Also, before you leave the hospital, your healthcare providers will make sure you get the education you need so you can manage your new way of life.
- Hormonal changes. For females who are not yet menopausal, you may have hot flashes after your ovaries are removed.
- Reproductive health. After surgery a man may not be to have sex. If the prostate was removed a man will not be able to father a child. When the uterus is removed a woman can no longer get pregnant. If the surgeon removes part of a woman's vagina, then sex may be difficult.
- Sexual dysfunction: Bladder cancer surgery is likely to affect your sex life. If you have a partner, you may be worried about maintaining sexual intimacy and your relationship. It may help you and your partner if you talk about your feelings. You can find other ways to be intimate after you had treatment.
If you do not have a partner, you may want to explore how to manage your dating life after bladder cancer surgery. You and your partner may benefit from the advice of a counselor who specializes in discussing sexual issues.
Your healthcare provider may be able to refer you to medical professionals and counselors who specialize in sexual issues after cancer treatment. You can also find a certified sex therapist near you on the website of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.
- Managing Pain: You may have pain or discomfort for the first few days following bladder surgery. Medicine can help control your pain. Before surgery, talk to your provider about how to manage your pain. After surgery, your doctor can change the plan if you need more control. Review the Pain Management Fact Sheet for more information.
Try to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. You should exercise, eat a well-balanced diet and stop smoking. Your healthcare provider also may recommend a cancer support group or individual counseling.