A few weeks ago I became super worried about a blemish on my arm. My natural reaction is to start googling and looking at every medical condition it could possibly be. In this instance my mind went immediately to skin cancer. Nothing could relax me except a visit to the doctor to confirm exactly what was this spot on my arm.
The waiting game began as it was going to take a week to get into the doctor. Between that time and the appointment I continued my bad habit of googling anything and everything I possibly could. Some recent reports show that around 80% of internet users search online for information about their medical symptoms.
First Derm Helped Diagnosis My Skin Issue
During this period of time I came across an app/website called First Derm. The goal of the website and app is to help effectively triage skin issues by sending images to dermatologists. This not only can help comfort you over something that is benign and results can be had a lot quicker than getting in to see a dermatologist.
It is important to remember that First Derm is not a substitute a doctor visit. It simply serves to bridges the gap between an internet search and an in-person dermatologist consultation.
- First Derm sends your photos to a board-certified dermatologist. In this particular instance there are no algorithms. The dermatologist exams the photos and is able to identify possible skin cancers that may not be pigmented. Algorithms in that particular case could miss those signs.
- Online dermatologists are better than non-expert physicians at identifying particular skin issues that according to a study in the Archives of Dermatology.
- The board-certified dermatologist adhere to sensitivity and specificity rates that are high, meaning that they will refer you to an in person visit for anything that looks suspicious.
The service can also be used for skin issues that are not potential cancers. Rashes and skin issues from dermatitis, among others, can all be diagnosed through First Derm. In fact the majority of cases First Derm receives are about rashes and other skin-related issues.
In addition the service also has a free component that allows you to upload two photos where First Derm’s Artificial Intelligence and Convolutional Neural Network access your photos and compares them with 250 skin diseases in its massive database. Use it now HERE.
Currently the technology is able to narrow down the condition for users and can identify the condition with 40% accuracy. It can narrow down the issue to the top five conditions that it could be with 80% accuracy, according to the company.
“The AI isn’t as good as replacing a doctor. It is more of a skin image search. It is very good for triaging for example,” Dr. Alexander Börve, CEO and founder of First Derm said. “You can also click a link and can read more about [the condition].”
Studies have shown that in over 70% of tele-dermatology consultations, the diagnosis is the same as a face-to-face visit with your doctor or dermatologist.
I used the free AI version of the website first and the spot on my arm came back with a leading probability that it was Seborrheic Keratosis. The remaining conditions it showed with lower probabilities were a variety of other skin conditions. None attributed to a form of skin cancer.
After using this free version for some piece of mind I decided to go ahead and submit two more photos for a board-certified dermatologist to review. I snapped some pics, gave a little information about the spot and sent along to First Derm. I received the results in about two hours that confirmed what the AI had previously suggested, that it was a Seborrheic Keratosis. They did make sure to let me know if I saw any changes or bleeding or scratching to go ahead and see a Dermatologist to better exam the spot. Having a dermatologist review the images gave me the peace of mind I needed until I could get an in-person doctor appointment.
The Doctor Visit
The week went by very slowly but I finally made it to my doctor appointment where upon on visual inspection of the spot she immediately confirmed that it was indeed a Seborrheic Keratosis. She said she could easily freeze the Seborrheic Keratosis with some liquid nitrogen and that it would disappear in weeks.
A sense of relief overcame me and at the same time was highly encourage by all the amazing advancements in healthcare and technology that are not present in our daily life. Just a few years ago you never would have thought that you could take a photo of a mole or skin blemish, upload it online and that a computer could determine with some great accuracy what it could be. Even more that you could send to a doctor and they could just from those pictures help triage a situation and send you in the best direction.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
Living in Southern California, constant sun is now a part of my life. This incident was a wake-up call to be even more vigilant than I already am. It’s important to make sure that before going out in the sun that you always have some sunscreen on especially in a constant tank-top weather even in the winter. You may think that damaging UV rays are not hitting you on cloudy days but that just is not true.
- More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70
- Actinic keratosis is the most common precancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans
- It’s estimated that the number of new melanoma cases diagnosed in 2019 will increase by 7.7%
Don’t forget to take care of your face with moisturizer and sunscreen as well, even including lip balm with sun screen. Lips and ears are some of the most overlooked areas on your body even when you do have good sunscreen habits. Many skin cancers can develop on and around your lips. Even some sunglasses can help prevent any damage by harmful UV rays in and around your eyes.
Not only will you be helping your health you will also be helping to prevent signs of aging. So slather on some sunscreen and head outdoors and enjoy life.