BCG vaccine

Bacillus Calmette–Guérin vaccine

A type of immunotherapy drug used to treat some bladder cancers

About BCG vaccinations

The Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine is commonly used to prevent tuberculosis. It’s also a helpful treatment for some early and non-invasive bladder cancers.

BCG is an immunotherapy drug that stimulates your body's immune system to get rid of cancer cells in your bladder. By doing so, it helps to prevent the cancer from coming back and reduces the chances of it spreading.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    BCG is an immunotherapy drug. You'll receive it through a catheter (a thin tube), which will be gently inserted into your bladder, usually by a specialist nurse. Your consultant or nurse will also explain how often you'll receive the treatment and for how long. Usually, you'll receive it once a week for six weeks, followed by a six-week break. If it's working well, you may receive more treatment.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    You'll be asked to limit your fluid intake before your treatment, as this will make it easier for you to store the BCG drug in your bladder and give it time to work effectively. Your consultant or nurse will explain any other preparations you may need to take. They'll also answer any questions you may have. Like all procedures, there may be some risks and side effects involved. These may include:

    • an increased need to pass urine
    • pain when you pass urine
    • blood in your urine
    • flu-like symptoms such as general aches and an increased temperature

    These effects should settle in a day or two.

  • Afterwards icon plus

    The treatment can take up to three hours. You can usually go straight home after it. Your consultant will let you know when you can get back to your usual routine, including work or exercise. Your specialist nurse will explain what things you'll need to keep a close eye on after your treatment.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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