Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, or BCG, is the most common intravesical immunotherapy for treating early-stage bladder cancer. It's used to help keep the cancer from growing and to help keep it from coming back.
BCG is a germ that's related to the one that causes tuberculosis (TB), but it doesn’t usually cause serious disease. BCG is put right into the bladder through a catheter. It reaches the cancer cells and "turns on" the immune system. The immune system cells are attracted to the bladder and attack the bladder cancer cells. BCG must come in contact with the cancer cells to work. This is why it's used for intravesical therapy.
Signs and Symptoms
Treatment with BCG can cause a wide range of symptoms. It's common to have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, achiness, chills, and fatigue. These can last for 2 to 3 days after treatment. It also commonly causes a burning feeling in the bladder, the need to urinate often, and even blood in the urine.
Rarely, BCG can spread into the blood and through the body, leading to a serious infection. This can happen even years after treatment. One sign of this can be a high fever that isn’t helped by Tylenol or medicines like it. If this happens, call your doctor right away. You might want to ask about other serious side effects you should watch for and call your doctor about.