Thursday, 30 July 2020 09:49

Melanoma analysis firm develops virtual triage service that can identify skin cancer

By
Associate Professor and MoleMap dermatologist Helmut Schaider. Associate Professor and MoleMap dermatologist Helmut Schaider. Supplied

MoleMap, a company that collects images of skin lesions, has developed a virtual triage service during the ongoing pandemic that has been able to identify skin cancer in 12% of high-risk patients who were examined.

A statement from the company said Australia had the world's highest rate of melanoma with more than 13.200 registrations each year and 1770 deaths annually.

Triage is a process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for, or likely, benefit from immediate medical treatment.

The service was used by melanographers in Australia and New Zealand to test lesions remotely and refer high-priority cases for further diagnosis and treatment.

For every 100 patients screened, 282 suspicious lesions were photographed. Dermatologists found 12 skin cancers, including eight melanomas, one of which was a nodular melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

MoleMap has the largest database of skin lesions globally and identifies about 400 cases of melanoma each year in Australia and New Zealand.

Associate Professor and MoleMap dermatologist Helmut Schaider said melanoma could progress quickly and early diagnosis and treatment was critical before cancer cells entered the bloodstream.

While melanoma could be deadly, the prognosis for those identified at an early stage was usually very positive – with a 90% disease-specific five-year survival rate.

ProfessorPeterSoyer"We know from personal experience and literature that melanomas and non-melanoma skin cancers can develop within weeks," Schaider said.

"This is the reason why certain patients at high risk with a lot of moles, a personal or family history of skin cancer and those immuno-suppressed are under constant surveillance and need ongoing care.

"Once the melanoma has progressed through the skin and into the bloodstream it can spread to other parts of the body where it becomes much harder to treat."

Brisbane-based MoleMap dermatologist Professor Peter Soyer (right) said new trial data had found virtual melanoma checks worked well in collaboration with patient skin self-examinations, with patients able to identify suspicious lesions with more than 75% accuracy.

"We are relatively fortunate that the mobility restrictions placed on patients during COVID-19 did not last longer than they did," he said.

"When it comes to the initial identification of potential melanoma, research suggests patients are quite adept at recognising a change in their moles. At the same time, this high level of self-awareness can lead to anxiety when there are delays in diagnosis, such as those experienced under COVID-19.

"Virtual identification of melanoma is paving the way for a new paradigm, which will help us develop new ways to treat patients remotely and will be an essential part of our preparation for the impact of future pandemics or a resurgence in this current one."

MoleMap chairwoman Jodi Mitchell said the new tech was an easy and inexpensive way to get a patient evaluated by an experienced skin cancer nurse who could ensure that diagnosis and treatment of the most worrying lesions was prioritised.

The lockdown had accelerated development of new virtual skin cancer diagnostic services and enabled MoleMap to offer patient solutions now provided in both a virtual and physical environment, she said.

"We know that a large proportion of melanomas are initially identified by patients themselves and we are now able to use technology to help them have more direction over their care and treatment," Mitchell added.

"For patients who have a melanoma, a delay in diagnosis can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes.

"Patients who are concerned about a lesion will soon be able to enter a portal which contains their records and initiate a video call with a specialist melanographer who can help them determine the next steps for treatment or immediately help relieve some of the anxiety they may be experiencing.

"The new triage service empowers the patient to make sure the lesion that is bothering them can be attended to. However, a full mole map offers a lot more: a full body skin examination — including the areas one can't see oneself — image archiving of moles that might change in the future, and a dermatologist's opinion on high-quality clinical and dermatoscopic images."

MoleMap has clinics in four Australian states and one territory: in Ararat, Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Bentleigh East, Brighton, Bundoora, Camberwell, Carlton, Elwood, Essendon, Frankston, Geelong, Glen Iris, Horsham, Huntingdale, Melbourne CBD, Melbourne, South Melbourne, Mildura, Moonee Ponds, Mornington, Ringwood, Ringwood North, Rowville, Sandringham, Shepparton, Tullamarine, Warrnambool and Werribee (all Victoria); Cherrybrook, Crows Nest, Griffith, Hunters Hill, Newcastle, Queanbeyan, Swansea, Sydney CBD, Waterloo and Woolongong (all NSW); Brisbane – Central, Cleveland, Eatons Hill, Stafford, Sunnybank, Taringa and Townsville (all Queensland); Norwood (South Australia); Belconnen, Canberra and Greenway (all ACT).


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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