Tool Could Revolutionize Skin Cancer Detection

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It affects one out of every five Americans at some point in their life.

“Skin cancer basal cell and squamous cell specifically are the most common cancer in the United States,” said Dr. Jason Reichenberg, with Seton Healthcare Family.

But one doctor at Seton teamed up with researchers at the University of Texas to create a device that could make skin cancer diagnoses more available.

A wand, no larger than a pen, uses a laser to detect information invisible to the naked eye.

“Basically what this device is doing is it is shining a light into the skin, and then it’s receiving that light back into the probe, the little wand that you’re touching to the skin, and it harmlessly receives that information from that light to determine if something is concerning for skin cancer,” said Dr. Reichenberg.

When skin becomes cancerous, light interacts differently with the tissue.

“The computer you can see the wavelength is peaking in different areas showing different absorption and reflection,” said Dr. Reichenberg.

For every skin cancer detected, there are about 25 negative biopsies performed.

That costs the U.S. health care system about $6 billion.

Examining the data from this revolutionary device could make those costly biopsies obsolete.

“Hopefully this device, if it can be used to perhaps make a diagnosis or perhaps the spot or this device is not a painful device, it may encourage patients to see their doctor sooner without being so worried about getting a painful skin biopsy,” said Dr. Reichenberg.

Judges at the SXSW interactive awards were so blown away by the technology, they presented doctors with a first place trophy.

“It was a big shock to us. The other competitors in the category which was ‘Sci-fi No Longer’ were very sci-fi. We had everything from hearing devices to mini motors to flying cars, so it was very humbling very exciting that we were able to win the award,” said Dr. Reichenberg.

Doctors say this is just one more example at how technology is shaping the future of western medicine.

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