Cancer Detection Through Mobile Phones

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Bangalore, August 29, DHNS:
Nearly eight lakh new cancer cases are reported every year in India and 75 per cent of the cases are discovered at an advanced stage due to late detection and inappropriate treatment.
To encourage early detection, Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre (MSCC) in Narayana Hrudayalaya Health campus, along with SANA, a research group under Harvard Business School and MIT, has launched ‘mhealth’ that uses mobile phone to detect cancer.

Incidentally, the person from Harvard who co-created the software with MIT student Russell Ryan is Sidhant Jena, an Indian.

Elaborating on the technology, MSCC medical director Dr Paul Salins said the SANA software has certain automated questionnaires which are directed to the patient by a health worker.

If most of the questionnaires are answered in the affirmative, the health worker will then take high quality lesion picture using the phone camera. The condition will be diagnosed either using the software’s decision support algorithms or by uploading the data to the Centre’s EMR system for the specialists to take a look at it. If the lesion is malevolent then an appropriate treatment is recommended to the person.

“Most patients come to us with stage four tumours that are expensive to treat. However, if cancer is detected early, not only can it be properly treated but will also be economical for the patient. In fact, the treatment would come within the government’s insurance scheme,” said Dr Salin. He added that same system could be used for ECG and other chronic diseases.

Pilot project

The technology was put to use in Belgaum, Raichur and some parts of Bangalore over six months to diagnose oral cancer.

In these health camps, the Centre detected 20 cancer patients. Around the same time, the Centre also worked with KLE Dental Hospital, Bangalore, and Navodaya Medical College, Raichur, where general physicians, nurses and medical students were trained to use the software.

In total, nearly 400 high risk cancer patients were screened during this period. As many as 20 ASHA workers in Belgaum were given mobile phones with SANA software to conduct the screening. Dr Salins stressed that the software could be downloaded in any model of mobile phones.

The Centre now plans to rope in couple of medical colleges in Bangalore and Kolar and train the staff to use mhealth.

In Bagalkot, it has joined hands with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a strong presence in the district through its HIV/AIDS programme. “The foundation has agreed to include cancer screening while doing door-to-door survey,” he said.

Bone marrow cell

The Centre is also in the process of constructing the largest bone marrow transplant unit in the premises. The unit is to come up in about nine months.

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