When 39-year-old Natalie Killian of the U.K. noticed a strange-looking pimple on her chest, she took a photo using the app SkinVision. The app, which uses "clinically-proven technology" to assess whether a skin irregularity is low risk, medium risk, or high risk, determined that Killian's mole was medium risk.
Killian did what we've all been taught to do and paid a visit to her dermatologist. But the doctor told her that the mole was nothing to be concerned about, as reported by Express. Later in the year SkinVision sent Killian a notification to get the mole examined again.
At first she ignored it, assuming that her doctor knew best. But when she began experiencing "sharp, needle-like pains," Killian quickly sought a second opinion. Her new doctor gave her an urgent two-week cancer referral, partially due to the documentation gathered by SkinVision.
"I was able to show them the changes I had seen using the photos saved on the app," Killian told Express. It turned out that she had a type of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) that can be difficult to treat. Killian had surgery to remove the lesion earlier this year.
Shari Marchbein, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, told Allure that although these apps can be useful, nothing replaces an in-person assessment by a doctor. "While I think [apps are] potentially useful to help raise awareness and empower patients with medical knowledge, an app absolutely does not replace the additional eight years of training and clinical experience that a dermatologist has," Marchbein said.
The majority of apps like SkinVision include disclaimers that they're not meant to be a substitute for a doctor's expertise. But in cases like Killian's, using an app to track a skin irregularity can be an effective way of determining when it's time to seek a doctor's opinion (or a second opinion if necessary).