Shedding New Light on Bladder Cancer

Urologists at UW Health are utilizing new technology to improve detection and reduce local bladder cancer recurrence.


Bladder cancer is one of the five most common malignancies in the United States and it is estimated that over a half-million people have a known diagnosis of bladder cancer. The hallmarks of early bladder cancer care are to reduce local bladder cancer recurrences and prevent the cancer from becoming invasive into the muscular layer of the bladder. Incomplete detection of cancerous tumors is a key reason that bladder cancer has one of the highest recurrence rates and is the most expensive cancer to treat on a perpatient basis.


Dr. Tracy Downs uses Cysview®, a new diagnostic technology to help physicians better detect and treat bladder cancer.Fluorescence cystoscopy with hexaminolevulinate (Cysview®) has been shown to detect 17 percent more papillary tumors than the standard white-light cystoscopy. Cysview® is administered into the bladder one hour before bladder tumor resection in the operating room. The drug selectively accumulates in malignant cells. Under blue-light cystoscopy, bladder cancers become more visually evident and appear red against a dark blue background when using a cystoscope equipped with this technology.


The Department of Urology was the first in the state of Wisconsin to utilize this technology. It is estimated that 53 percent of patients diagnosed with superficial bladder cancer will experience a recurrence within two years of diagnosis. The Department is committed to providing innovative technologies such as Cysview® enabled cystoscopy, as part of the long-term strategy to reduce local disease recurrence in patients with superficial bladder cancer.


The Department of Urology has been at the forefront of the treatment of muscle invasive bladder cancer for over three decades. This treatment requires a complex surgical procedure, radical cystectomy, where the bladder is removed and a new urinary system is created from the small or large intestine. Radical cystectomy is the most effective treatment option for muscle invasive disease, and survival rates are 15 to 20 percent better than alternative treatment modalities.


Radical cystectomy, similar to other complex cancer surgery and complex cardiovascular operations, has become regionalized to high-volume academic medical centers. From 2005 to 2011, UW Health urologists performed 376 radical cystectomy surgeries accounting for one out of every five radical cystectomies performed in the state of Wisconsin.


The Department offers the confidence that comes with extensive surgical experience. Patients are offered all forms of urinary diversions and the urologists are able to offer radical cystectomy to individuals with complex medical and prior surgical histories who would have been denied this operation in the past. Patients are offered the option of minimally invasive techniques, including robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical cystectomy. The robotic surgical platform allows surgeons to treat bladder cancer with a minimally invasive surgical approach.