Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is a bacterial strain used for the treatment of bladder cancer. With successful results and very few side effects, this treatment is getting lots of attention in the last few decades. In medical science, there are no clear findings about the working of BCG in treating bladder cancer. Popularly recommended as an immunotherapeutic agent, it is believed that BCG either triggers the immune responses to fight against cancerous cells or increases inflammatory responses to invade such cells. In some regions, this vaccine is still in use to prevent tuberculosis.
Sold under the trade name TICE BCG, it is the most preferred therapeutic intervention for management of cancer symptoms. Advocating specific dosage of BCG is found to be effective in treating patients who are diagnosed with stage 0 and stage 1 bladder cancer. Also, it is effectual to prevent recurrent growth of such cells in the bladder. Thus, some physicians recommend using this as a postoperative treatment after removing the tumors by transurethral resection operation.
The BCG is derived from an attenuated form of live bovine tuberculosis bacteria (scientific name Mycobacterium tuberculosis), which has been cultured in controlled conditions for several years. After culturing them in the laboratory for a stipulated time, the organisms are weakened to a certain extent. When introduced in the body, they do not cause tuberculosis, rather BCG elicits the body's immune system to restore the natural defense mechanism of the body.
While following this treatment, the doctor prescribes preparatory steps to every patient. In order to get optimal effectiveness, BCG should be given in an empty bladder. So, one should not drink anything for 4 hours before the treatment. In the session, a urinary catheter is used to deliver BCG directly into the bladder. Another consideration is to keep the medication in direct contact with the bladder walls for at least 2 hours. Hence, urination is not allowed for two hours after the treatment to get better results.
After administering BCG, the patient should reduce the intake of fluids for the next few hours. He/she will be asked to lie down and change their position after every 15-20 minutes. This helps in washing the bladder walls with the medicinal solution. For the first 6 weeks, BCG is administered once per week. Following this, the treatment is done at an interval of 3-6 months for the next 2 years. During this duration, the patient is closely monitored by the doctor. Overall, bladder cancer survival rates have increased with the intervention of this treatment.
This treatment works in a totally different manner, when compared to chemotherapy. Since this approach makes use of bacterial strains to boost the body's own immune responses, the side effects are minimal, tolerable, and often temporary. In fact, some patients do not have any adverse responses at all. Mild side effects include skin rashes, cough, bladder irritation, and increased lethargy. These symptoms may last for about 3 days.
Speaking about the severe side effects, one should consult the doctor in case of an infection, flu like symptoms (chills and fever), and urinary tract problems (incontinence, blood in urine and burning sensation during urination). Very rarely do people complain of inflammation in the lungs, hepatitis, and low white blood cells count with this treatment. Medical researches are ongoing to examine various BCG strains and schedule followed for treatment, to get effective results.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.