Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, and roughly 8,000 Canadians are diagnosed with some form of it every year. The good news is that if caught early, the survival rate is upwards of 98%. A late diagnosis, however, cuts the survival rate down to a mere 15%, making active monitoring paramount for improving patient outcomes.
Visual clues are an important part of monitoring, and many cases are first noticed by family members or patients. Unfortunately, this often happens too late, as a major and noticeable change usually means the disease has progressed enough to become a serious threat. Making matters worse, long clinic wait times and the hassle of organizing appointments hamper the patient’s ability to be adequately monitored by a professional.
Now, advances in imaging technology and AI have made remote monitoring a viable option. At the heart of the innovation is MoleScope: a tool that can be attached to a smartphone, acquiring images at a microscopic level that help users to track moles over time.
It enables users to acquire high-quality images that can be analyzed using software, or remotely by a dermatologist — something that wouldn’t be possible with a regular smartphone camera alone. The device was developed by MetaOptima, a Canadian start-up involved in intelligent dermatology and skin analytics.
MoleScope takes high-quality images of your moles and uploads them to a cloud platform. Here, they can be remotely analyzed and assessed by dermatologists, bypassing issues associated with appointments.
“It enables patients to have access to the same system that doctors have in their clinic,” said CEO Maryam Sadeghi to CBC. “As a patient, I don’t have to wait 12 months to use [a doctor’s] phone or… camera to look at my mole. I can do this from home.”
Snapping images with a regular phone camera isn’t sufficient because it can’t capture all the necessary information to make an accurate assessment. MoleScope has a range of specialized features that collectively deliver superior imaging, and the device is approved by field experts. The product and its accompanying software (DermEngine) are HIPAA-compliant, so the security of the data is ensured when in storage or transfer from patient to doctor.
Another issue for dermatologists is that even when they obtained the images for a patient’s record, there was no consistent way to systematically manage them. DermEngine solves this by allowing doctors to track and compare information over time. This is a big help for individuals who may be simultaneously monitoring scores or even hundreds of moles.
Besides documentation, the platform assists with the analysis of skin conditions through its AI. For instance, it can compare images of a wound or lesion recorded over time to detect when it’s evolving in a dangerous direction to help monitor the healing process.
An extra bonus with MoleScope is with telehealth for isolated rural individuals who lack access to skin specialists: “There are telehealth programs already that [the] government is already funding to connect remote areas to major centres,” said Sadeghi. “The problem… is that they don’t have access to high-quality images.”
Staying on top of dermatological health is important for everyone given the prevalence of skin cancer. Nothing highlights the point better than a freak occurrence that happened during MoleScope’s development when a team member inadvertently self-diagnosed herself with melanoma while testing image quality. Sagehdi told the CBC that everything worked out, thankfully, but she emphasized, “…we were fortunate that she found it in an earlier stage.”