New Viva Scope means fewer biopsies

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in our country. It is no surprise since we spend hours outside each year.

It also comes with a variety of warning signs, like dark moles and skin bumps.

Doctors often order biopsies when we notice one of these suspicious spots on our bodies.

However, the procedure is known to leave scars, until now.

A new device is checking for cancer, just beneath skin's surface.

Joseph Donnelly has been with Doctor Babar Rao, checking out the moles on his face. Donnelly has had two moles that were cancerous in the past.

No more surgery, no cutting from a biopsy, thanks to the device Dr. Rao called a Viva Scope.

Dr. Rao, a dermatologist at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, says, "It will take just a few images, which then will be visible on a monitor like this and I can tell right away if it is good or not good."

Dr. Rao says the viva scope is applied directly to any part of the body. It takes only sixty seconds to look beneath the skin's surface.

Joseph says, "I think it will become much more common. I think I know it will save lives."

At 70, Donnelly can walk away knowing he will not have unnecessary scars just to be sure he is skin cancer free.

Dr. Rao says right now, most insurance companies will not pay for the viva scope.

Patients opting to use the device typically pay $250 or more out of pocket.


TOPIC: More Viva Scope: Fewer Biopsies
REPORT: MB #3785

BACKGROUND: Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Every year, more than three point five million cancers in over two million people are diagnosed. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer compared to breast, prostate, lung and colon combined. Treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers increased by nearly 77 percent between 1992 and 2006. (Source:

SIGNS/SYMPTOMS: About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. It develops on the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women. But, sometimes the cancer is found in a place that hasn't been exposed to the sun. Researchers think other factors could be involved. For example, exposure to toxic substances or a weakened immune system. Risk factors may include: fair skin, history of sunburns, and excessive sun exposure. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Viva Scope mole detection allows dermatologists to examine and diagnose tissues non-invasively. This means unnecessary scars, biopsies and excisions are avoided. This also means the unaltered skin is still available for accurate analysis, if need be. The images can be saved, so if the patient needs to be monitored the images will be available for comparison. The Viva Scope hand held unit can reach skin regions that are difficult to examine. It can be applied to any part of the body and look beneath the skin's surface. Images appear on a monitor and the doctor can usually determine immediately if it is problematic. According to the National Institutes of Health there are barriers with new technologies, like the Viva Scope. Some of those barriers are cost, time needed to become competent, and lack of insurance reimbursement. (Source: For further information, visit


Babar K. Roa, MD, FAAD
Professor, Department of Dermatology
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Office: 212-949-0393

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas

MB #3785
JUN '14

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