Screen for Pancreatic Cancer by Snapping a Smartphone Selfie

“Our goal is to have more people who are unfortunate enough to get pancreatic cancer to be fortunate enough to catch it in time to have surgery that gives them a better chance of survival.”

Screen for Pancreatic Cancer by Snapping a Smartphone Selfie

By Staff Writer

The University of Washington researchers have developed an app that could allow people to easily screen for pancreatic cancer and other diseases — by snapping a smartphone selfie.

BiliScreen is a new smartphone app that can screen for pancreatic cancer by having users snap a selfie.

The app uses a smartphone camera, computer vision algorithms and machine learning tools to detect increased bilirubin levels in a person’s sclera, or the white part of the eye.

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.

BiliScreen builds on earlier work from the UW’s Ubiquitous Computing Lab, which previously developed BiliCam, a smartphone app that screens for newborn jaundice by taking a picture of a baby’s skin. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed BiliCam provided accurate estimates of bilirubin levels in 530 infants.

“Pancreatic cancer is a terrible disease with no effective screening right now,” said co-author Dr. Jim Taylor, a professor in the UW Medicine Department of Pediatrics whose father died of pancreatic cancer at age 70.

“Our goal is to have more people who are unfortunate enough to get pancreatic cancer to be fortunate enough to catch it in time to have surgery that gives them a better chance of survival.”

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