Skin Cancer Checks Using Digital Imaging

Skin cancer checks with digital imaging can be undertaken by a trained nurse or doctor using a special digital dermoscopic camera and skin mapping software. Digital dermoscopy uses high magnification and high light intensity to illuminate the sub-surface features of skin lesions that cannot be detected with the naked eye. It is particularly suited to the identification of melanoma, although it has some application in diagnosing non-melanoma lesions such as basal cell carcinomas. Digital imaging can provide advantages in the form of remote diagnosis, early skin cancer detection, and preventative medicine.

Diagnostic Accuracy

While relatively good diagnostic accuracy can be obtained with traditional dermoscopic methods, digital dermoscopy can enhance the accuracy of skin cancer detection. During a digital skin check, images are taken of all lesions meeting certain that may indicate malignancy. Typically, a conventional photographic image of a lesion is taken, followed by a high resolution dermoscopic image. Data pertaining to a lesion, such as itchiness or perceived growth, may also be recorded. By linking these details together in an electronic record, digital dermoscopy can aid medical practitioners in skin cancer detection and help to reduce the need for unnecessary excision of benign lesions. This method may also reduce the need for medical practitioners to perform biopsies.

Advantages of Digital Record Keeping

One of the key benefits of digital dermoscopy is that once an initial digital record has been made, it can be compared against images made during subsequent consults. This enables medical practitioners to detect changes in the skin at an early stage and to treat skin cancers before they become problematic. This is especially useful for patients who have a lot of moles (50 moles or more), or a large number of atypical moles (5 moles or more), as it can be difficult for doctors to track changes with such large numbers. It is also useful for patients with a high-risk of melanoma skin cancer, as many melanomas arise out of previously unmarked skin and can do so comparatively rapidly. Patients that undergo digital imaging are usually checked on a periodic basis at least once a year.

Applications in Telemedicine

Digital images may be reviewed on-site by a doctor or dermatologist, but are often used in telemedicine, where a doctor or dermatologist reviews the images off-site. This can be of use for patients in remote areas who don’t have access to specialist doctors. After diagnosing each lesion, a dermatologist or specialist doctor would forward a report to a local general practitioner identifying lesions of concern and detailing any recommended treatment. Digital dermoscopy can also assist medical clinics that have a high volume of patients, as it allows a nurse or general practitioner to perform the time consuming work of image taking, while a specialist doctor or dermatologist undertakes diagnosis at a later time. By focusing on diagnosis, the specialist can review the images of a high number of patients in a short amount of time.