Smartphones are helping to lead the digital revolution, but they are also helping to advance medical knowledge and understanding. Since the majority of adults have a smartphone, it makes sense that turning these devices into medical diagnostic devices could revolutionize how early certain conditions are detected.
Early detection is crucial for a number of health conditions, put it is especially important for patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That’s because less than two percent of individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive more than 10 years after they are diagnosed, but early detection can help curb these numbers. Early detection is difficult because symptoms of pancreatic cancer don’t really begin to show until the condition is in a later stage. However, a new app may soon help increase early detection rates.
New Pancreatic Screening App
A new phone app that analyzes selfies to check for signs of pancreatic cancer has “shown promise” in helping medical experts identify cases of concern. According to preliminary results, the app has correctly detected cases of concern 89.7 percent of the time.
The app, called BiliScreen, uses smartphone technology to analyze the color of a person’s sclera (white of the eye). The app was developed out of existing technology that screened the sclera of newborns for jaundice. Jaundice of the eyes is one of the earliest symptoms of pancreas problems, so the technology was tweaked to screen for eye discoloration in adults. The earliest changes in eye color are not visible to the naked eye, but can be picked up by the app that is designed to look for these minimal changes.
“The eyes are a really interesting gateway into the body – tears can tell you how much glucose you have, sclera can tell you how much bilirubin is in your blood,” said study senior researcher Shwetak Patel.
The eyes are a great place to look for the buildup of bilirubin, a telltale sign of pancreas problems, because changes in the sclera are more consistent across all races compared to skin tones.
How It Works
Researchers hope that the app will be available for public use in about a month or so, but it’s not as simple as snapping a selfie with your camera. In order to ensure the proper lighting hits the eyes, users have to use a 3D printed box to control the eye’s exposure to light.
“In the privacy of their own homes – some might catch the disease early enough to undergo treatment that could save their lives,” said study lead researcher Alex Mariakakis.
So while the technology is hopefully not too far away, it serves as a good reminder to undergo regular pancreatic cancer screenings. If you are over the age of 60 or if you notice a change in skin color or your eyes, set up an appointment with an endocrine specialist like Dr. Michael Koeplin. He would be more than happy to conduct the screen and walk you through any treatment options should you need continued care. Reach out to his office today.