The survival rate for pancreatic is very low making it one of the most dreaded cancers out there since symptoms don't show up until the disease is advanced.
A new app is, however, claims to make it easier for people to detect pancreatic cancer earlier, by just taking a selfie.
Researchers at the University of Washington have developed an app called BiliScreen which, together, with your phone's camera, uses computer vision algorithms to detect levels of the chemical bilirubin in the whites of a person's eyes.
"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. The ability to detect signs of jaundice when bilirubin levels are minimally elevated — but before they’re visible to the naked eye — could enable an entirely new screening program for at-risk individuals," the researchers said in a statement.
In an initial clinical study of 70 people, the BiliScreen app — used in conjunction with a 3-D printed box that controls the eye’s exposure to light — correctly identified cases of concern 89.7 percent of the time, compared to the blood test currently used, the researchers said.
“The eyes are a really interesting gateway into the body — tears can tell you how much glucose you have, sclera can tell you how much bilirubin is in your blood,” said senior author Shwetak Patel, the Washington Research Foundation Entrepreneurship Endowed Professor in Computer Science & Engineering and Electrical Engineering. “Our question was: Could we capture some of these changes that might lead to earlier detection with a selfie?”
To account for different lighting conditions, the team tested BiliScreen with two different accessories: paper glasses printed with colored squares to help calibrate color and a 3-D printed box that blocks out ambient lighting. Using the app with the box accessory — reminiscent of a Google Cardboard headset — led to slightly better results.
Next steps for the research team include testing the app on a wider range of people at risk for jaundice and underlying conditions, as well as continuing to make usability improvements — including removing the need for accessories like the box and glasses.