The length of time for your surgery, hospital stay, and recovery depends on your individual case. Factors include the type of surgery you have and the details of your diagnosis.
There are two general types of operations that are done for bladder cancer. The first type is called transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) and it is performed in patients when bladder cancer is first suspected. In this operation, a camera is placed through the urethra to see the tumor and small tools are used to scrape out the tumor. General anesthesia is required and the procedure typically takes 30-60 minutes. Most patients go home the same day after TURBT. Sometimes a tube is left in the bladder for one or more days after TURBT to allow the bladder to heal.
The second type of operation involves removal of the entire bladder. This operation is called radical cystectomy and it is usually done to try to cure the patient of bladder cancer. It is a major undertaking because it involves three complex operations that must be done at the same time: i) removal of the bladder and nearby organs, ii) removal of lymph nodes, and iii) construction of a new way for the body to handle urine removal. This operation can be done with the traditional open method or the robotic method and it can take anywhere from five to eight hours. Most patients spend between two to four days recovering in the hospital.
For patients that need extra help adjusting after bladder removal surgery, we often make arrangements to have trained nurses visit you at home. For patients that are extremely weak, that live alone, or that have circumstances that make it unsafe for them to be at home alone, our case managers work with rehabilitation hospitals and skilled nursing facilities near your home to find the place that will best help you recover.
Lymph node dissection
Lymph nodes are small glands that filter bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, and other impurities from the body. There is a density of lymph nodes around the large blood vessels near the bladder. These are the first places cancer usually spreads when it escapes from the bladder. If you are undergoing surgery to remove your bladder, your surgeon may also remove these lymph nodes as part of the same operation.
After lymph nodes are removed, a pathologist assesses them for cancer.