An app and a camera attachment are now all that are needed to check for early...
An app and a camera attachment are now all that are needed to check for early onset lymphedema in breast cancer survivors.
Source: LymphaTech / Georgia Tech

App detects side effect of breast cancer treatment

Some 20 percent of breast cancer survivors will suffer from lymphedema, a potentially severe side effect of treatment that makes arms swell with lymph. The disease is often overlooked, but commercially available app-based technology now makes early detection easier, allowing for proactive treatment.

The lymphedema monitoring technology originated through research at the Georgia Institute of Technology and was further developed for market by the company LymphaTech, which also emerged from Georgia Tech. Now, a new study has benchmarked the technology, finding that it effectively detects early arm swelling associated with lymphedema in breast cancer patients. 

The detection technology is intended to improve not only patients’ physical health but also their peace of mind and finances. “The most immediate awful consequence of lymphedema is seen in mental health. Severe depression is very high,” said Brandon Dixon, who co-led the study and is an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “If you detect it early, managing it could cost as little as $2,500 in a patient’s lifetime. If you catch it too late, the costs can rise as high as $200,000.”

“Lymphedema is under-researched, so we don’t know directly how it may lead to deadly health conditions, but there are more cases than AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease combined, and it diminishes patients’ health,” Dixon said.

No cure

Lymphedema can strike breast cancer survivors if surgery includes the removal of a lymph node, slowing the flow of lymph. The liquid waste can congest the arm, at first subtly but later so drastically that patients may no longer fit into their clothing. “It makes the stigma of cancer stick out,” Dixon said. “And it is a very underappreciated disorder in medical treatment, so patients can feel stuck with it with no way out.”

Photo
After the user moves the smartphone or pad around, the new app makes a point cloud of the arm to determine its volume and indicate signs of early lymphedema.
Source: LymphaTech / Georgia Tech

A German device called a perometer accurately detects arm swelling caused by lymphedema, but perometers are seldom available in the U.S. The research team could find only one in metropolitan Atlanta to benchmark the LymphaTech system against. It was located at TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation, a non-profit center that co-led the new study in collaboration with Dixon.

The advantages of the new technology over perometers are cost and convenience. Perimeters are bulky, costly machines, while the LymphaTech system runs on iPhone or iPad and requires only a $400 camera attachment and a paid smartphone app. Both devices simply determine total volume of the arm for swelling diagnosis.

The new system performed comparably in its accuracy to the perometer in the study.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

App uses AI to guide cancer patients

App uses AI to guide cancer patients

MyPath is a mobile application that gives breast cancer patients personalized recommendations on everything from side effects to insurance.

mhealth: an app to screen for early signs of dementia

mhealth: an app to screen for early signs of dementia

Dementia screening could be as easy as using a smartphone app that listens to elderly people speak.

mhealth: blood pressure monitoring as easy as taking a selfie

mhealth: blood pressure monitoring as easy as taking a selfie

Transdermal optical imaging measures blood pressure by detecting blood flow changes in smartphone-captured facial videos.

‘Prescribed’ app offers hope to young people who self-harm

‘Prescribed’ app offers hope to young people who self-harm

New research suggests that the 'BlueIce' app developed at University of Bath could have a significant impact in reducing self-harm in young people.

About the usefulness of fertility apps

About the usefulness of fertility apps

Analysing fertility awareness apps, researchers have been able to track behavior patterns and accuracy in measuring menstrual health and ovulation.

Cancer cryoablation probe could help breast cancer patients

Cancer cryoablation probe could help breast cancer patients

Carbon dioxide-based cancer tissue-freezing approach may help more breast cancer patients in lower income countries, animal studies show.

App can help diagnose Huntington’s disease

App can help diagnose Huntington’s disease

Researchers have created a mobile application, which helps recognise early symptoms of a rare Huntington's disease.

Smartphone app can hear ear infections in children

Smartphone app can hear ear infections in children

Researchers have created a new app that can detect fluid behind the eardrum by simply using a piece of paper and a smartphone’s microphone and speaker.

Update Apple Heart Study: Wearables can detect aFib

Update Apple Heart Study: Wearables can detect aFib

The clinical trial to determine whether a smartwatch app that analyzes pulse-rate data can screen for a heart-rhythm disorder has enrolled more than 400,000 participants.

Popular articles