MURRAY — When West Jordan resident Michael Peterson saw blood in his urine one morning, he thought, "That isn't right."
The 75-year-old Army and Air Force veteran was correct: He had bladder cancer, confirmed by his urologist, Dr. Jay Bishoff, at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.
Bladder cancer, although rare, can be tricky. According to Bishoff, it is often difficult to detect and has a high rate of recurrence.
"They tend to be nuisance tumors, like weeds," he said. "You pull them out and they grow right back again."
Now, new technology at Intermountain Medical Center helps doctors detect cancerous tumors in the bladder that are invisible to the naked eye — even to a highly trained doctor's eye.
The technology, called blue light cystoscopy, or Cysview, works by bathing the bladder in a solution that is absorbed by cancerous tissue and becomes fluorescent under blue light.
The hospital is the first in the Intermountain West to use the technology, which Bishoff said was purchased after giving much thought to the cost.
That's because the equipment for Cysview runs about $200,000, according to Bishoff. And yet bladder cancer is relatively rare, especially in Utah.
The leading cause of bladder cancer is smoking, which is less popular in Utah than other states due to the large Mormon population. The chemicals in cigarettes are filtered out by the kidney and become heavily concentrated in the bladder, where they bathe the rapidly dividing cells in the lining.
The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine without pain, fever or increased frequency of urination.
From 2003 to 2013, Utah recorded between 270 and 390 new cases of urinary bladder cancer per year, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Nationwide, the U.S. will see about 77,000 new cases of bladder cancer this year.
The Cysview procedure, which involves placing the solution in the bladder via a catheter for one hour before the procedure and then undergoing the standard cystoscopy procedure, adds about $400 to $500 to a patient's bill.
That's "a lot cheaper than coming back to the operating room," Bishoff said. "We decided it's worth it to the patients and it's worth it to the health care system."
Since the hospital obtained the new technology and equipment four months ago, 10 patients have undergone the procedure, Bishoff said.
In Peterson alone, Bishoff found 12 unseen tumors that he cauterized.
The Vietnam vet has previously fought thyroid cancer, kidney cancer and prostate cancer — possibly related to his exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam.
"We were kind of devastated a little bit" when he received the diagnosis of bladder cancer, Peterson said. "But we thought, 'Let the things happen the way they will.'"
Pictures from his operation show smooth organ tissue flecked with blood vessels, seemingly tumor-free.
But under blue light, the cancerous cells glow bright red — some of them large and obvious, some of them just small pinpricks.
On Tuesday, Bishoff called Peterson into the office for a "final inspection" that revealed he was cancer-free.
Peterson, who said he was "elated" by the news, jokes that he held a party after his checkup. Knowing his cancer has been fully removed, he said, is a great relief.
As for other patients, Peterson has some advice: "I suggest they make sure they keep track of their bodies and keep a good attitude."
And if they find blood in their urine?
"Call Dr. Bishoff," Peterson said.
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