A smart way to monitor melanoma

Monitoring for a recurrent melanoma may be as simple as using a smartphone, according to Australian and New Zealand research, published in JAMA Dermatology.

This may provide feasible, patient-led follow-up care to monitor whether melanomas return.

“People who have had one melanoma have an increased risk of developing an additional one, especially during the first few years,” says Professor Monika Janda of the University of Queensland, who was involved in the study.

Pilot study shows promise

A small pilot study of 100 patients found that using a skin-checker app and a magnifying device attached to a smartphone provided a safe way to monitor signs of cancer coming back after melanoma is removed.

“We gave patients special devices for their mobile phones, which allows them to take really precise photographs of skin lesions,” says Janda. “These are all patients who have had melanoma before.”

This group used the smartphone app at home, and they found more signs of melanoma compared to people who went in for hospital surveillance

“We found that there were quite a number of additional signs found by people themselves at home, which was really interesting,” says Janda.

Less travel for melanoma patients

Normally, patients need to travel to their doctor or hospitals for surveillance, which can be difficult and time-consuming. The smartphone method provides a feasible alternative that could be conducted at home.

“It could save some of the current visits to the doctor that people do regularly after they’ve had a melanoma,” says Janda,

“That could be particularly beneficial for people who live far away from their treatment centre and have to undertake extensive travel to reach them.”

As this was a pilot study, a larger, randomised clinical trial is required to see how this monitoring would relate to more patients in the long term.

“It’s a pilot study, so it’s not yet definite. But we’re currently undertaking a bigger study,” says Janda.

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