Expectant management of small, recurrent, noninvasive papillary bladder tumors

Mark S. Soloway, Darren S. Bruck, Sandy S. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Purpose: The majority of patients with stage Ta or T1 bladder cancer will have a subsequent tumor. Many of these patients invariably undergo multiple transurethral resections to manage small subsequent tumors or recurrences. We report our experience monitoring patients whose subsequent tumors appear to be small, low grade and papillary. Materials and Methods: A total of 32 patients with small, papillary, low grade appearing tumors and a history of Ta or T1 transitional cell carcinoma were monitored. The decision to delay resection or fulguration and observe these tumors was based on bladder cancer history, endoscopic appearance of the tumor and presence or lack of symptoms. All patients had a previous Ta tumor, and the tumor being observed was always papillary and appeared to be low grade. The decision to resect the tumor(s) was based on change in appearance (size or configuration) at followup endoscopy or hematuria. Patient records were reviewed, and bladder cancer history and tumor observation periods were recorded. Several patients underwent a number of observation periods. Tumor grade and stage before the observation interval were compared to the pathology of the observed tumor(s) after eventual resection. Tumor growth rate was calculated based on estimated tumor size documented at each interval. Results: Mean patient age was 72 years (range 39 to 88). Mean time since diagnosis of bladder cancer (initial urothelial tumor event) was 71 months (range 12 to 139). Mean number of subsequent tumor episodes or recurrences per patient was 3.8 (range 1 to 10). Mean number of transurethral resections was 3.8. Mean tumor-free interval before development of a subsequent tumor or mean time to recurrence was 13.4 months based on 104 tumor episodes. Not all tumor recurrences were observed. Mean number of tumor observation periods per patient was 1.8 (range 1 to 5) with a mean duration of 10.09 months per period based on 56 observation intervals. Mean time since the beginning of the initial observation period was 38 months (range 6 to 126). Mean tumor growth rate for 37 tumors was 1.77 mm per month (range 0 to 5.8). Only 3 of 45 (6.7%) patients had tumor progression from a pre-observation, low grade, noninvasive (TaG1 to 2) to a high grade Ta or T1 tumor. In the 3 observation periods in which the patient's most recent tumor was T1, 2 (67%) patients had TaG1 on resection after observation. Every patient with a T1 tumor before observation of a small new tumor had a history of a Ta tumor. No disease progressed to muscle invasion. Conclusions: Small, recurrent, low grade appearing bladder tumors are slow growing and pose minimal risk. Therefore, as an alternative to in office fulguration to minimize morbidity and cost associated with repeat transurethral resection it may not be necessary to remove these tumors promptly at new tumor occurrence or recurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-441
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


  • Carcinoma, papillary
  • Carcinoma, transitional cell
  • Observation, recurrence, bladder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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