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‘Blue light’ procedure at Upstate Cancer Center helps treat bladder cancer

Upstate Cancer Center Facebook
The Upstate Cancer Center in Syracuse.

Bladder cancer patients in central New York should see fewer trips to the operating room because of some new technology available at the Upstate Cancer Center.

Bonnie Krisak, a special education teacher in the Mexico School District, was diagnosed with bladder cancer just over a year ago. The symptoms included an urgency to use the bathroom, which was hard as a teacher.

"What would happen is, I’d have to get a teacher’s assistant to watch the class a lot so I could use the bathroom, pretty often,” Krisak said.

She learned treatment involves removing tumors from the bladder, but sometimes it requires several procedures because the tumors can be very small. But that’s all changed with new technology at the Upstate Cancer Center called Blue Light Cystoscopy. Krisak was one of the first patients to benefit from it, and said she feels fine now. Bladder Cancer Program Director Joseph Jacob said tumors appear bright pink when the scope is used during a procedure.

Credit Upstate Cancer Center
Upstate Cancer Center
The pink spots are what cancerous tumors look like under blue light cystoscopy.

"This allows us to clean out someone's bladder, not just with the naked eye, but with this blue light,” Jacob said. “Not just that, you can sometimes miss edges of tumors, so you switch back to the blue light, and you get the whole tumor, so patients don’t have to come back because maybe, we didn’t clean out the bladder completely."

Jacob said this is the biggest development in treatment of bladder cancer since robotic surgery started being used. Already, 15 patients have successfully been treated using this approach.  

Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.