The Medic-Assistant app will help detect skin cancer

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Ten post jest także dostępny w języku: polski

The pandemic has negatively affected the frequency of preventive examinations among patients who increasingly often contact doctors with advanced health problems. The issue also concerns patients struggling with cancer, in the case of which delayed diagnosis is associated with decreasing chances of recovery. One of the solutions that can improve the process of diagnosing skin cancer is an application created by Magdalena Kędzierska, a clinical oncology specialist, and Michał Frąk, a computer software developer.

The risk of skin melanoma has been increasing in Poland for thirty years, and the risk of cancerous skin lesions concerns every age group. In order to correctly diagnose the patient, the doctor must have access to information that will allow him to determine whether and over what time the skin changes occurred. As dr Magdalena Kędzierzyńska, a doctor working at the Cancer Chemotherapy Unit of the M. Kopernik Regional Multi-specialist Oncology and Traumatology Centre in Łódź, explains, skin lesions are not only a sign of potential skin cancer but also a possible symptom of solid tumours.  As she adds, one of the cancers giving symptoms on the skin of the chest is breast cancer.

How can the changes be spotted?

To be sure that a mole on the patient’s skin requires surgical intervention, it is necessary to know the history of the changes. The best way to document pigmented nevi is to take photographs that show not only the condition but also the size of the nevi. Due to the inability to store patient data, a mobile phone does not seem to be the ideal solution. However, it can be used if we have the right application, and Medic-Assistant is such a tool.

How does the application work?

The Medic-Assistant application was developed thanks to the cooperation between Magdalena Kedzierska and Michal Frak. A doctor from Łódź approached the application’s creator looking for a solution that would help her store patient photos in a well-organised way and would also allow contact between the doctor and the patient outside the clinic. Medic-Assistant turned out to be such a tool, thanks to which the patient, using a mobile phone, can take a photo of a skin lesion and send it to the doctor using a specially generated, secure link. The doctor analyses the photo and assesses whether action is required.

The app, which was developed by a single developer, is currently in the prototype stage and will be refined by an additional team. Help in developing the app was made possible by the STX Next company, which became involved in the project free of charge after one of its collaborators benefited from a Medic-Assistant consultation with a doctor. The team is now working on improving the application so that it becomes available to all doctors and patients in Poland later this year.

Will there be a revolution in diagnostics?

Although the application will definitely facilitate the diagnosis of patients, primarily by improving contact with doctors, it will not replace traditional visits. It should be remembered that also those skin changes that do not seem suspicious should be examined. Only a specialist doctor can correctly assess whether a skin lesion is benign and does not require treatment. In addition, the application may not be effective enough in the case of poor quality images, which in this case are the basis for further diagnosis.

However, there is no doubt that the new tool, Medic-Assistant, will encourage patients to seek advice from their doctors more often. The pandemic and the required referral to visit a dermatologist, introduced six years ago, have reduced the number of visits to specialists, increasing the number of patients seeking help for advanced stages of cancer. The creators of the application hope that thanks to Medic-Assistant patients will be able to receive help much sooner. As Professor Janusz Piekarski from the Medical University of Łódź adds, the new application will be a very useful diagnostic tool for clinicians.

An epidemic of melanoma?

Sun exposure is essential for the synthesis of vitamin D, but it also carries a risk of skin cancer, as evidenced by the ever-increasing number of oncology patients. In Poland, a suntan is still considered an indicator of attractiveness and well-being, but it should be remembered that excessive exposure to UVA and UVB radiation, both solar and artificial, is often the cause of melanoma. Therefore, you should consider whether it may be worth giving up a short-term tan to protect yourself from skin cancer in the future.

As doctors emphasise, if melanoma is detected early enough, patients have a 100% chance of curing the disease. Unfortunately, if the patient misses the key moment of spotting the cancerous change, the prognosis is not successful. Patients with untreated melanoma can live up to four years, which is why early diagnosis is so important, as in many cases it can help save lives.

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