Researchers have devised an app capable of detecting early signs of pancreatic cancer. The app called BiliScreen, under development at the University of Washington, allows people to use their phone to screen themselves for the deadly condition. Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst outlooks with survival rates of 10 years or more less than 1 per cent
Pancreatic cancer currently has one of the worst outlooks, according to Cancer Research UK.
According to experts, one of the reasons for low survival rates of pancreatic cancer is the lack of obvious symptoms or non-invasive screening tools to identify a tumour before it spreads.
With the new app people are asked to take a 'selfie' with their smartphone. The app then uses computer algorithms and machine learning tools to detect increased bilirubin levels in a person's sclera - the white part of the eye.
According to experts, this is because one of the earliest symptoms of the cancer is jaundice, a yellow discolouration of the skin and eyes due to build-up of bilirubin in the blood.
The app can detect signs of jaundice even with minimal elevation of the bilirubin levels and invisible to the naked eye.
The app, "BiliScreen," uses a smartphone camera, computer vision algorithms and machine learning tools to detect increased bilirubin levels - reddish yellow pigment formed by the breakdown of red blood cells - in a person's sclera, which is the white part of the eye. Jaundice, the yellow discoloration of the skin, causes a rise in bilirubin levels before it's visible to the naked eye. However, researchers found BiliScreen is able to detect color changes in the eye as people take a selfie.
The app was used in conjunction with a 3D printed box that controls light exposure for the eye in the initial clinical study. It accurately identified cases of concern 89.7 per cent of the time in 70 people as against the current blood test used by doctors. According to experts, this is significant as changes in sclera are normally detected once bilirubin levels are well past cause for concern.