Biological therapy takes advantage of the body’s natural ability to fight cancer.
• Your immune system forms substances in the blood that work against “invaders,” such as abnormal cells (that is, cancer cells).
• Sometimes, the immune system becomes overwhelmed by the very aggressive cancer cells.
• Biological therapy, or immunotherapy, helps bolster the immune system in its fight against the cancer.
• Biological therapy is typically given only in stages Ta, T1, and CIS bladder cancers.
• One widely used immunotherapy or biological therapy in bladder cancer is intravesical BCG treatment.
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• A fluid containing BCG, an attenuated vaccine (altered Mycobacterium), is introduced into the bladder through a thin catheter that has been passed through the urethra.
• The Mycobacterium in the fluid stimulates the immune system to produce cancer-fighting substances.
• The solution is held in the bladder for a few hours, then drained. This treatment is repeated every week for six weeks and repeated at various times over several months or even longer in some cases. Researchers are still working to determine the best length of time for these treatments. Over time, the treatments may be required on a less frequent basis.
• BCG may irritate the bladder and cause minor bleeding in the bladder. The bleeding is typically invisible in the urine. You may feel the need to urinate more often than usual or pain or burning when you urinate. Other side effects include nausea, low-grade fever, and chills. These are caused by stimulation of the immune system. These effects are almost always temporary.
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