Surgeons create new bladder for patients with cancer

MIAMI – When it comes to finding his passion in life, Robert Rouillard was a bit of a late bloomer. 

The 67-year-old became an avid cycler in his 50s.

"I'm all the time the oldest biker in the group," Rouillard said.

When Rouillard first notice blood in his urine, he thought it was just from too much training.

"Then after that I said, 'No, it's not normal.' So, I see my doctor and he said, 'Wow, you have cancer,'" Rouillard said.

Rouillard's general practitioner sent him to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where urology professor Dr. Mark Gonzalgo gave him some reassuring news.

"One common solution or treatment for muscle invasive bladder cancer is removal of the bladder and constructing a new one, which we call a  neobladder," Gonzalgo said.

The procedure is done using a portion of the small intestine. 

"At the beginning it was, 'Wow, you're going to remove my bladder and build a new one?' And he said, 'Yes, that's possible,'" Rouillard said.

Gonzalgo said the neobladder procedure is beneficial for active patients.

"This allows the patient to void or urinate through their urethra in a natural way," Gonzalgo said. "They do need to promote voiding by gently pushing on their abdomen but they don't need an external pouch."

Although the procedure has a higher risk of complications compared to an external pouch, Rouillard was back to cycling in a matter of months.

"I am 100 percent now. Very good," he said with a smile. 

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