While treatable when caught early, bladder cancer can be life-altering. In too many cases, it can be life-ending.
The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that approximately 12,500 Canadians will develop bladder cancer in 2021, and 2,600 people will die from it. The fourth most common cancer among Canadian males (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) and the eighth most common cancer among Canadian females, bladder cancer also has a high rate of recurrence, explains Dr. Jason Archambault, a urologist and Head of Surgery at Langley Memorial Hospital.
The challenge is that the best technology to identify some of these cancers is not currently available in Langley.
“Bladder cancer is not something we hear a lot about, but it’s a serious cancer that affects people’s quality and quantity of life,” Dr. Archambault says.
When a urine sample shows cancer cells, the Langley surgical team performs a white-light cystoscopy – a day procedure that uses a scope to examine the patient’s bladder, illuminating the region with a white light to look for suspected cancer tumours. An average of 200 of these are performed each month at Langley Memorial.
However, white-light cystoscopy – the only method currently available in Langley to diagnose and treat bladder cancer – is limited in detecting some flat lesions or their full size.
The good news is that a recent innovation called Blue Light Cystoscopy has proven to significantly improve identification of bladder tumours – even those otherwise difficult to detect. In fact, one study found that 20.6 per cent of malignancies were identified only by Blue Light Cystoscopy.
The technology uses a special imaging solution, left in the bladder through a catheter, that’s absorbed by the cancer cells. Under blue light, the cancer cells glow fluorescent pink, making it easier for a urologist to see the edges of a tumour and to fully remove it from the bladder.
“The significance of the technology is huge,” Dr. Archambault says. “It’s been around for awhile but it’s so much more accessible now.”
Today, if cancer cells are found in the patient’s urine but the Langley Memorial team can’t find a tumour using white light, the patient must attend another hospital for the Blue Light Cystoscopy to identify and treat the cancer.
Bringing the technology to Langley Memorial
A Blue Light Cystoscopy tower at Langley Memorial would allow the hospital’s specialists to diagnose patients in their own community and begin treatment quickly, leading to quicker recovery and better outcomes.
Finding bladder cancer early can mean the difference between recovery and treatment that is life-altering, in the case of required bladder removal, for example, or life-shortening, Dr. Archambault says.
It would also allow patients’ easier continuity of care in their own community – because of the likelihood of recurrence, bladder cancer patients have frequent follow-up with their medical teams, Dr. Archambault explains.
“Having this technology available locally would really be a game-changer for patients,” he says.
The Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation is raising $225,000 to bring Blue Light Cystoscopy equipment to Langley this year, with $150,000 raised to date by generous donors.
To learn more, and to help bring this vital piece of technology to Langley, visit lmhfoundation.com/donate