App can help detect signs of pancreatic cancer

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US researchers have now developed an application that helps detect this kind of silent cancer, through selfies. Pancreatic cancer can develop almost without any symptoms.

Pancreatic cancer can progress with almost no symptoms and annually kills about 358,000 people worldwide. Now, according to Science Magazine, US researchers have developed an application that helps detect some of the warning signs of this silent disease, simply through selfies.

One of the early symptoms of this cancer is jaundice (a yellowish color on the skin and eyes), is caused by the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood. The BiliScreen application serves to detect levels of bilirubin in the sclera (the white part of the eye).
The process is being developed through a smartphone camera and computer algorithms, with a submission date set for September 13 at the UbiComp 2017 conference. This progress may allow a new type of disease screening for patients at risk.

“The problem with pancreatic cancer is that when the symptoms appear, it’s usually too late”, said Alex Mariakakis, one of the creators of the application and a student at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “The hope is that people doing this simple test once a month can detect the disease at an early stage and can be treated early”.

Considering the different lighting conditions, the team tested the tool with colored squared paper glasses, to aid in color calibration, and a 3D box to block ambient light.
The study was based on the submission of 70 people to the BiliScreen and cases were correctly identified 89.7% of the time compared to the blood tests currently used.

This application is designed to be an easy-to-use tool that can help determine whether or not someone should consult a doctor for further testing. The tool, created jointly by University of Washington physicians and computer engineers at UbiComp, uses the built-in camera of a smartphone to collect data about the person in selfie.

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