UW Medicine implements blue light mechanism to detect bladder cancer cells

The University of Washington in Seattle is using a blue light cystoscopy that makes tumors glow a bright pink color, allowing surgeons to better identify non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. 

"Seventy percent of bladder cancer patients have non-muscle-invasive disease," Jonathan Wright, MD, urology professor at the university's school of medicine, said in a Feb. 23 news release. "That's the population who can benefit." 

It's meant to be performed if an initial bladder cystoscopy indicates irregular results. 

To perform a blue light cystoscopy, surgeons use a catheter to infuse the patient's bladder with an optical-imaging solution, which is absorbed by cancer cells. A blue light-emitting electrode is used in place of the standard white light to identify pink illuminated cancer cells. 


"It probably helps us pick up significantly more tumors that white-light cystoscopy can't reveal — including the flat tumors called carcinoma in situ, which can be quite aggressive but difficult to see with the naked eye," Dr. Wright said. "For people who have tumors that we're resecting, you flip the blue light on to confirm that you get all the tumor tissue and don't leave any behind."

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