The Daily App: Keep Skin Cancer in Check
The dermatologist gave the grim news: the pathologist's report revealed the diagnosis -- skin cancer. The melanoma had metastasized and an inch-wide excision would need to be made. If only they had noticed the mole sooner...
For more than two million Americans, this scenario is played out every year. Melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of cancer, can spread quickly from the skin, through the lymphatic system, to other major organs, and doctors agree that monitoring moles for changes in shape and color is critical to early detection and limiting the scope of the damage.
Steady and persistent checks can reveal signs, and if caught early, boost the chance of a successful recovery. But of course, putting good advice into practice is difficult, since moles often change over time without notice, until it's too late. But healthcare apps, such as Doctor Mole, promise to help track those minor changes, underscoring how apps are revolutionizing preventative healthcare.
What's the App?
Developed by Australian app developer Mark Shippen, Doctor Mole lets you scan moles to assess them for possible malignancies. It checks for specific traits, known as the "ABCDEs" of moles:
1. Asymmetry -- unequal or lopsided moles are suspicious.
2. Border -- irregular or indistinct ones are warning signs.
3. Color -- healthy moles are generally one color.
4. Diameter -- anything more than the size of a pencil eraser needs professional evaluation.
5. Elevation -- raised moles are signs of danger.
The functions are clear and the interface is simple, making it easy to use. After you take a picture of the mole, the app -- using a smartphone's sensor and augmented-reality -- will present you with a color-coded risk level for each of the ABCDEs. It then saves the images of the mole, so you can compare with previous photos and make sure it's not growing or changing. In addition, every few weeks, it'll remind you to check the mole again.
The app won't diagnose skin cancer, and if you find a suspicious mole, you'll need to have it checked out by a doctor. But the app can play a critical role in getting you into the dermatologist's office before it's too late.
You'll Want It If...
Despite its name, the Doctor Mole app is clear that it should not be used as a substitute for a medical professional, and sometimes devices can't compensate for uneven lighting, shadows or general poor image quality, which could create errors in the evaluation technology. No iPhone camera can replace a doctor's trained and experienced eye.
But besides regular check-ins at the doctor's office, it's a powerful tool for anyone with a predisposition for cancer, whether from a family history with the disease or a former sunbathing habit during the teenage years. If you're an outdoor athlete who spends a lot of time in the sun, a reformed sunbather or just someone who had a few bad sunburns in the past -- and has the dermal evidence to show for it -- Doctor Mole could be a health-saving tool for you.
It's Not My Thing -- What Else Ya Got?
Doctor Mole joins one of the most promising, powerful sectors of the app market. Mobile health apps are proving incredible tools for the healthcare industry, using the portability and capabilities of smartphones to bring significant advances in medical technology outside the doctor's office and the hospital.
The implications of this shift are game-changing on several levels, for example, promising to revolutionize the delivery of medical care to rural, poor and developing areas of the world, as well as encouraging all users to take a proactive approach to their own health.
Most of these apps, however, are geared to medical professionals, and priced accordingly. The Handyscope app, for example, turns an iPhone into a dermatoscope, which doctors use to look for melanoma. But with a price tag of over $1,000, it's out of reach for most casual users. Still, even health education apps, geared towards consumer awareness, can do a lot to boost knowledge of one of the fastest-spreading cancers. ♦
Categories: Medical | The Daily App