July 9, 2014 | by Denise Heady
When Sheldon Querido, a retired manufacturer's representative, was diagnosed with bladder cancer, his doctor told him that he'd need to have his bladder removed – and that he'd have to wear an external urine-collection bag for the rest of his life.
"My first response was 'I don't want to live like that,” Querido told ABC 7 in a recent interview. “That's gonna be a terrible way to live."
Querido simply couldn't accept that collecting his urine externally was his only option. The Thousand Oaks resident and his wife decided to get a second opinion at City of Hope. There, they learned there was indeed another choice: an artificial bladder, called a neobladder, built by specialists at City of Hope.
This year alone nearly 75,000 people in the United States will be told they have bladder cancer. Some will also be told they need to undergo a radical cystectomy, a surgery that removes the entire bladder, to survive.
Once the cancerous bladder is removed, most patients will then undergo a urostomy, during which they'll receive an external bag to collect urine. The bag is necessary because, without their bladder, patients no longer have the ability to control the flow of urine out of their body. Many people learn to adjust to the external bag, but resuming their previous life with all its activities can be difficult.
But doctors at City of Hope offer a more functional option for these patients — the neobladder.
A neobladder is created using tissues from the intestines to create a new bladder that is very similar to a normal bladder. It is connected to the urethra, which enables patients to urinate normally, eliminating the need for an external bag and allows patients to transition back to their normal life after surgery.
Kevin Chan, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology, told ABC 7 that about 60 to 90 percent of these patients will end up with an external bag instead of a neobladder because many doctors aren't comfortable performing the neobladder procedure, and not enough patients are aware of this option.
"I've had patients refuse surgery because they think they're going to have a bag and they're not necessarily offered the neobladder, or they don't know that it exists," Chan said in an interview with ABC 7.
Surgeons at City of Hope perform about 80 cystectomies per year, with 40 to 50 percent of patients receiving a neobladder, one of the highest proportion rates in the country.
Chan estimates patients receiving neobladders nationwide is probably less than 10 percent proportionally. “The reality is that most patients are only offered the urostomy, when many of those patients would be excellent candidates for a neobladder,” he said.
For Querido, the second opinion at City of Hope was life-changing.
"I can be normal and live a normal life," Querido said in an interview with ABC 7 in regards to the neobladder.
Now he wants other patients with bladder cancer to know they have options as well.
"It needs to be told to the public how life-affirming this surgery really is," Querido told ABC 7.
Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). Our staff will explain what previous medical records we'll need for your first appointment and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.