University of Washington researchers have developed an app that could allow people to easily screen for pancreatic cancer and other diseases by snapping a smartphone selfie, Newswise reports.
Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of only 9 percent, partly because there are no obvious symptoms or non-invasive tools to catch the cancer before it spreads.
The new app, called BiliScreen, uses the smartphone camera, computer vision algorithms and machine learning tools to detect increased bilirubin levels in the sclera, or the white part of the eye.
One of the earliest symptoms of pancreatic cancer, as well as other diseases, is jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. Early on, the discoloration is invisible to the naked eye, so the ability to detect it could make a huge difference.
“The problem with pancreatic cancer is that by the time you’re symptomatic, it’s frequently too late,” said lead author Alex Mariakakis, a doctoral student at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “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.”
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