A retrospective study was done on 176 patients with primary stages Ta and T1 bladder cancer treated between 1963 and 1972. One patient was lost to followup after 6 years, while the remainder were followed to death or for at least 20 years. In 1993, 13 patients had no evidence of disease, 39 died of bladder cancer and 123 died of intercurrent disease. Of 77 patients with a primary noninfiltrating tumor and 99 with a primary lamina propria invasive tumor 9 (11%) and 30 (30%), respectively, died of bladder cancer. Recurrences were noted on 10 or more cystoscopic studies in 16 patients and 10 died of bladder cancer 3.5 to 19 years after the primary transurethral resection. A total of 14 patients received repeated thiotepa instillations, all continued to have recurrences and 10 subsequently died of bladder cancer. Only 1 upper tract tumor was diagnosed on routine followup excretory urography. Invasive transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder developed in only 1 of 59 patients who had been tumor-free for 5 years. The results indicate that patients with recurrences on 10 or more cystoscopic studies will continue to have recurrences until death or cystectomy. Recurrence more than 4 years after the primary tumor operation is another ominous sign. Repeated thiotepa instillations did not influence the course of the disease in patients with a history of multiple recurrences. Followup cystoscopy may be discontinued 5 to 10 years after the last recurrence, at least in patients with a solitary low grade primary tumor. Routine followup urographic studies are neither cost-effective, clinically indicated nor justified in patients with superficial bladder cancer.