According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. So, it's no mystery why advancements in detection technology could be the difference between life and death in many patients. Apart from the more obvious challenges involved in the treatment of any form of cancer, melanoma is also fairly difficult to diagnose. The difficulty lies primarily in the fact that, while most seemingly dangerous moles are harmless, it is difficult to know this without performing a surgical biopsy. Most patients would prefer noninvasive detection techniques to reduce the chance of unnecessary biopsy scars.
The MelaFind optical scanner aims to provide dermatologists with a way to analyze questionable growths without performing a surgical biopsy. The technology was initially developed by the Department of Defense for use in missile navigation and has been adapted for the optical imaging of suspicious skin lesions in 10 electromagnetic wavelengths. The collected images are then processed and matched against a database of 10,000 images of melanoma and other skin diseases using advanced algorithms.
The significance of this advancement lies in the fact that dermatologists may no longer need to surgically obtain cell samples in order to have enough evidence to remove a growth. Surgical biopsy is an inefficient method of preliminary analysis, due to the large number of harmless moles that may appear dangerous. On the other hand, optical imaging could be a much more efficient method of preliminary analysis because it would reduce the number of invasive operations a patient must undergo. Furthermore, biopsy results could take much longer to yield conclusive results than an optical scan, which would increase the time between identifying a potential tumor and removing it.
The MelaFind optical scanner has the potential to revolutionize the way physicians perform preliminary analysis of melanoma skin cancer, by confronting many of the major downfalls of standard surgical biopsies. Identifying a cancerous tumor without the use of invasive surgery has not been a widely available option for many physicians until recently. The importance of such an approach cannot be understated since the likelihood of a negative result is fairly high, which means that the likelihood of unnecessary scars is also fairly high.