A team of researchers from the University of Washington have created BiliScreen – a smartphone app that can screen for pancreatic cancer by way of taking a selfie.
Pancreatic cancer sits with one of the worst long-term prognoses largely thanks to the fact that the disease leaves few visible symptoms (or applicable non-invasive screening methods) before a tumour spreads – but now, thanks to a team of researchers from the University of Washington, a new app dubbed BiliScreen might help patients screen themselves through incredibly common means – by simply taking a selfie.
BiliScreen leverages a smartphone camera in addition to unique computer vision algorithms and machine learning tools that can detect increased bilirubin levels in the sclera (white) of one’s eye.
Pancreatic cancer typically manifests first through jaundice, when one’s skin takes a yellow discolouration as a result of bilirubin in the blood. While jaundice is, of course, typically visible once manifested, BiliScreen is capable of analyzing early signs of jaundice prior to visibility to the naked eye.
BiliScreen leverages a smartphone’s built-in camera and flash to take multiple pictures of a person’s eye as they take a selfie. The app is capable of analysing colour information from one’s sclera, where the app can correlate it with bilirubin levels through machine learning algorithms.
BiliScreen has been trialled in a clinical study of 70 people in conjunction with a unique 3-D printed box that can correctly identify potential signs of concern 89.7% of the time compared to blood tests that are typically used to screen for pancreatic cancer.
Alex Mariakakis, a doctoral student at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, offered that “The problem with pancreatic cancer is that by the time you’re symptomatic, it’s frequently too late… the hope is that if people can do this simple test once a month — in the privacy of their own homes — some might catch the disease early enough to undergo treatment that could save their lives.”
Pancreatic cancer is cited as the cause of some 41,780 deaths per year – claiming the life of Apple CEO Steve Jobs in October of 2011.
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