Software Makes Cancer Checkups Easier for Rural Patients

Researchers are working on software to make checkups for skin cancer survivors easier, especially for those in rural areas.
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Researchers are working on software to make checkups for skin cancer survivors easier, especially for those in rural areas.
Photo Credit: © Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

Photo Credit: © Monkey Business - Fotolia.com

Every survivor of skin cancer is told to see a specialist every three to six months for up to 10 years following their diagnosis. However, for those living in rural areas, it's not always easy to find and see a specialist on a regular basis. Achieving Self-Directed Integrated Cancer Aftercare, or ASICA, was developed to help cancer survivors in rural areas get their checkups. 

The experimental project is currently studying to see if such checkups are possible for those living in remote areas, while also educating outpatients on self exams and sending images of any abnormalities to specialists. 

Testing began earlier this month, in which volunteer participants used ASICA alongside regular appointments with specialists. 

Users receive a text message telling them to examine their skin, while a tablet displays instructional animation guiding them through the process. It also stores a gallery of images so users can find and compare changes. If no abnormalities are found, they simply send a message back to be kept in a log. If something is found, users take a picture and send it to a specialist. 

"The specialist will be able to advise whether or not the patient needs to come in for a full consultation, or whether it's fine, and doesn't require further examination," Dr. Murchie, a clinical consultant at the University of Aberdeen, told Medical Xpress. "Alternatively, they could be asked to make an appointment with their local GP, at which the specialist can remotely participate in via Jabber (NHS Scotland's secure videoconference technology)."

He adds: "The examination process can be quite intensive -- you have to check inside the ears, and beneath nail beds, for example. As well as hopefully reducing the need for travelling long distances to visit specialists, ASICA should also educate patients on how to carry out self-examinations and the warning signs they should be aware of and take action about."

ASICA is currently only focused on rural areas, but if all goes well, they will expand the program into urban areas.