Diagnosing Skin Cancer without a Biopsy

FRESNO, Calif.

According to the American Cancer Society, millions of biopsies for cancer are performed each year, but 80 percent come back negative.

Soon, there could be a way to diagnose skin cancer without any painful cutting or waiting for results. It's the future of skin cancer detection.

Four years ago, Brendie Keane started seeing the warning signs.

"My eyes were starting to change, and I noticed that I had a new mole on my face," Keane told Ivanhoe.

A visit to the dermatologist confirmed her worst fear, that mole was a melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

The only way to confirm skin cancer is to cut off a skin sample and send it to a lab. Then, patients wait for days for results.

"You have to numb it, take it off, take a piece of skin, so it's invasive," Darrel Ellis, MD dermatologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., explained. "It's not real deep for a biopsy, but it is invasive. It will leave a scar."

But this machine, being tested by researchers at Vanderbilt University, could make biopsies history. A laser light illuminates the cellular structure of the skin, seen through a microscope lens.

It scans the chemical analysis of the skin and compares it to a database stocked full of chemical signatures linked to known cancers. It could get a patient's results in minutes, which could mean years.

"Melanoma, if you catch it really early like they did for Brendie, then that person has close to 100 percent survival." Dr. Ellis said.

"Being five years out and safe, you know, it makes you appreciate your health," Keane said. Keane's making every day count.

The researchers hope their new technology could be available to dermatologists in the next five to ten years.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Melissa Medalie atmmedalie@ivanhoe.com

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