Skin Scope Spots Cancer

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 8:55am

New device gives doctors an instant look at potentially cancerous skin cells.

Experts estimate that one in five people will develop skin cancer.

Often, doctors need to do a biopsy to determine if a growth is malignant.

Now dermatologists at the University of Miami are using a scope that, in some cases, can help patients avoid the scalpel.

The VivaScope gives a dermatologist more depth.

It's called a confocal imager, which provides pictures and valuable information below the skin's surface.

The dermatologist is able to see tell tale cellular details, even blood vessels, that signal whether something is malignant or benign.

It's painless to the patient who just has to be perfectly still.

That's a benefit for the patient, says University of Miami Dermatologist Dr. James Grichnik.

“If it's an area we're questioning and by the confocal it looks fine, we might chose not to do a biopsy, which will prevent an unnecessary biopsy," he said.

Nearly 70,000 new cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed ever year.

Dr. Harold Rabinovitz explained that sometimes it's clear for a dermatologist to determine when a mole is actually malignant melanoma, but not always.

In one case, the cancerous growth was in a hair follicle, he said.

"It may be an area that maybe we're not that worried about, but maybe we have a little bit of suspicion," Rabinovitz said. "Where the machine will help us to see if there is an underlying malignancy and help us to do a biopsy on something. Hopefully we'll catch it earlier than we might have otherwise.”

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