Cystectomy is a surgical procedure that removes all or part of the bladder. It is performed to treat cases of bladder cancer that have not responded to more conservative forms of treatment and have spread to the bladder wall.

The Cystectomy Procedure

Invasive bladder cancer may require all or part of the bladder to be removed. The different types of cystectomy include:

Partial Cystectomy

A partial cystectomy is the removal of a portion of the bladder. It is performed to treat cancer that has spread to only one portion of the bladder wall. A partial cystectomy is an effective treatment for cancer that has not spread to areas outside the bladder.

Radical Cystectomy

If the cancer has spread to a larger area and outside the bladder, a radical cystectomy may be necessary. A radical cystectomy is the removal of the entire bladder and lymph nodes, including part of the urethra, and nearby organs. In men, a radical cystectomy also includes removal of the seminal vesicles, the prostate and a portion of the vas deferens. In women, a radical cystectomy also includes removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. After the bladder is removed, a new pathway will need to be created to allow urine to pass through the body, usually with the help of a collection pouch.

Complications of a Cystectomy

As with any surgical procedure, there are certain risks associated with cystectomy. Complications are more common in patients who have undergone a radical cystectomy. Possible complications may include:

  • Infection
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Urine leakage
  • Infertility, if reproductive organs are removed
  • Acidosis, an imbalance of electrolytes that may require medication

Recovery from a Cystectomy

After undergoing a cystectomy, a patient will stay in the hospital for about one week. Patients may experience pain during this time and it is usually managed with painkillers. Full recovery from a cystectomy is typically achieved in about six to eight weeks. Additional treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation may be administered to patients who have received a radical cystectomy.

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