Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is used to treat bladder cancer because it stimulates immune responses that can destroy cancer cells within the bladder. BCG may be used to treat early-stage cancer, but it is used most commonly to prevent the return
(recurrence) of noninvasive bladder cancer. It is most often used after cancer
has been removed from the bladder using
transurethral resection (TUR) surgery.
BCG is also used in some countries as a vaccine to provide protection
When it is used to treat bladder cancer, BCG is given through a
urinary catheter (intravesically) into the
Limit your fluid intake for 4 hours before the
procedure, so you will be able to hold the medicine in your bladder during the
BCG is given through a urinary catheter. You will be asked
not to urinate for 2 hours and to change position every 15 to 20 minutes so the
medicine washes the entire bladder wall.
For 6 hours after
treatment, wash your genital area after every urination to avoid skin
Treatment is usually given once a week for 6 weeks. After this,
you may be treated again every month for 6 to 12 months or every 3 to 6 months over the next 2
Why It Is Used
BCG is used following TUR surgery for
noninvasive bladder cancer in people who are at medium or high risk for
recurrence of cancer. It can also be used following TUR surgery in people who
cannot have a
cystectomy procedure for bladder cancer. But its
usefulness in these cases is limited.
How Well It Works
Studies show that treatment with BCG delays the recurrence of cancer, slows cancer growth, and possibly helps people with bladder cancer live longer.1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
National Cancer Institute (2012). Bladder Cancer Treatment (PDQ)—Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/bladder/healthprofessional.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.