By Emily Murray
Melanoma is known as the deadliest form of skin cancer and while it may seem like it should be easy to spot, detection by the naked eye is sometimes more challenging than it sounds.
This has been one problem that health care professionals have sought to put an end to and as of this week’s FDA approval of a new device, a solution may now be within reach. It’s called the MelaFind and it’s a piece of equipment that photographs potentially dangerous areas on the skin and then uses a computer to search the images for any signs of cancer. While a doctor’s eyes and opinion are still an important part of the diagnosis process, the MelaFind is said to be akin to getting a second opinion.
According to an associated press article on this topic, more than 70,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with melanoma this year. The most difficult part of this type of cancer is catching it early. If it is diagnosed and treated before making it to the late stage, chances of survival are naturally much higher.
Another benefit that the MelaFind seems to offer is perhaps fewer biopsies. Currently when a doctor looks at a patient, it is up to him or her which moles should be removed and studied more closely. Since early detection is so essential, most doctors seem to err on the side of caution. This means more removals, discomfort, stitches and stressful time spent waiting for test results. With this new device however, it seems that with a single photograph, which is compared to a database of 10,000 archived images, a more advances recommendation for biopsy can be made.
Of course to earn it’s recent FDA approved status, a good deal of testing was done beforehand. The company which manufactures MelaFind published a study last year which involved testing the machine’s effectiveness in spotting melanoma in the 1,300 patients involved. Interestingly enough, 125 of 127 melanoma growths were correctly recommended by MelaFind.
Of course, it’s not flawless, but then again neither are doctors. When used as a tool to help make the diagnosis, it appears that the chances of making a less flawed decision about whether or not to remove a mole will result.
As far as the general public taking advantage of this new device, that still won’t happen immediately even though it has earned FDA approval. The MelaFind will not make it’s way to any doctors office until next year and even then, the number of machines distributed will be limited to 200. These doctors will be located on the east coast and will need to undergo training provided by the company before they can use the technology on patients. They will lease the device for their office and patients can expect to pay $150 out of pocket to have it used in an appointment.