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Volume 23 / No. 1 / 2012
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Cornell University
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The Optical Biopsy

Douglas S. Scherr, Urology, Weill Cornell Medical College Scherr
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We want to create a better way to look inside the walls of a bladder for cancerous cells, eliminating the constant need for biopsies and saving the patient so much morbidity.

Woes of Bladder and Prostate Cancer

A person is diagnosed with bladder cancer. It may be superficial bladder cancer, but it won’t matter. Copious pain, bleeding, risk of infection, risk of perforating the bladder, time off from work, and expense will be the patient’s ordeal.

Every three months of the first year after diagnosis, the patient must get a cystoscopy, looking inside the bladder with a camera. When we look inside the bladder, oftentimes we see little red spots and areas that ordinarily would be of no concern. But in a patient with bladder cancer, we must be concerned with everything, because the naked eye cannot always tell whether the tumor is benign or malignant. So, the patient must get a biopsy every three months, particularly early in the disease course. This is a lifelong experience—lifelong surveillance.

Bladder cancer—more than any other cancer—is the most expensive disease to care for over the course of a lifetime. Can we find a better way to see not only inside the bladder but also beyond the lining of the bladder, inside the wall at a microscopic level, without taking a biopsy, saving the patient from so much morbidity?

A Burning Aspiration

I’m a urologist, and my specialty is urologic oncology. I care for patients predominantly with bladder, prostate, kidney, and testicular cancer, where I’m removing mostly bladders and prostates, and some kidneys and testes. I see a large volume of patients with these diseases.

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