Woman uses app to take photo of spot on chest. Doctor says it’s nothing—but app says it’s serious

October 26, 2017 11:47 am Last Updated: October 27, 2017 12:13 pm

Nowadays there’s an app for everything. Want to look up a recipe for tonight’s dinner? Look it up on an app. Interested in finding a significant other? There’s an app for that too. Are you curious about that mole on your chest? There’s also an app for that. And that’s exactly how one woman first learned the pimple on her chest was anything but a normal pimple.

When 39-year-old Natalie Killian was younger she used to go tanning quite frequently.

“I felt better with a tan and the risks just weren’t publicized in the way they are now,” she told Express. Plus, she said, “everyone did back then.”

For years Killian would tan without thinking of the consequences.

Within the past year Killian noticed a pimple on her chest. She became suspicious of it and searched for a way to keep track of any possible changes. The 39-year-old came across an app called SkinVision. SkinVision claims their app has been “clinically tested” and has “proven accuracy to detect melanoma skin cancer.”

Users upload a photo of the spot they are concerned about and then they receive an assessment which determines if they are low, medium or high risk.

Killian submitted a photo of the pimple and the app warned her that her skin irregularity was medium risk. The app also suggested she keep tracking the spot by taking more photos over time.

When she found a concerning spot, she turned to an app for help.

Although according to the app it wasn’t absolutely necessary, at least not at this point in time, she visited her primary care doctor. She was assured it was nothing to worry about.

Some time went by and she received a notification from the SkinVision app. The app advised her to get the spot on her skin checked out as soon as possible. Again, to give herself peace of mind, she saw her doctor and was told there was nothing to worry about.

“I had been sent quite a few messages by the SkinVision team but thought that my GP must know better than my phone,” Killian told Express.

Although her doctor assured her not once, but twice that the spot was fine, the app continued to send her notifications.

And she believed her doctor—until she started to experience other symptoms and receive even more urgent notifications from SkinVision. She began to experience sharp pains and itching, and it compelled her to get a second opinion.

After switching doctors, it was confirmed that Killian had basal cell carcinoma. A biopsy later revealed she had an “infiltrating BCC,” which is a slow growing tumor and can be difficult to treat.

Killian has since had the skin irregularity surgically removed and vows to be more careful in the future.

And though Killian credits the app with helping her to keep track of the spot on her chest, dermatologists urge people not to completely rely on the technology.

“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,” Shari Marchbein, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, told Allure.

So, while an app should never act as a replacement for a doctor, it can be a good place to keep track of potential changes.