The ‘pioneering’ new technique that could spot eye cancer – takes ‘less than a second’

Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for

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The greatest impediment to improving cancer survival rates is delays in detection. Thankfully, technology advancements are helping to narrow the gap between detection and diagnosis. Researchers have developed a “pioneering” 3D device which could help to detect eye cancer in a way that’s fast, efficient and cheap.

The low-cost device, which can capture 3D images of the eye, can also help to detect glaucoma – another eye condition that benefits from early detection.

The device can capture images of the retina, the back of the eye and the cornea and can be added to a slit lamp which is commonly used by optometrists to check the health of the eye.

Existing machines for 3D imaging can cost up to £100,000 which often makes them too expensive for large-scale population use.

A modified version of the technology could make it possible for people to take “selfies” of their retinas, meaning that the machine could be used in non-supervised settings such as pharmacies.

The device has been developed by Doctor Mario Giardini, Doctor Ian Coghill, and Kirsty Jordan, at the Department of Biomedical Engineering of the University of Strathclyde.

Doctor Giardini said: “Patients can be imaged easily and inexpensively, without the need for a specialist to be present. Our device reliably takes 3D images, and it is comfortable and fast, at less than a second.

“The technology has the potential to revolutionise the screening and follow-up within the community of conditions such as glaucoma, as any optometrist, anywhere in the world, could afford it. This work makes eye diagnostics more accessible, reducing inequalities.”

Doctor Iain Livingstone, Consultant Ophthalmologist at NHS Forth Valley, who has collaborated with Dr Giardini on previous ophthalmology projects, said: “So much of what we do as eye doctors depends on seeing things in 3D.

“It’s a crucial addition to the way we interpret information, harnessing digital to glean so much more from a slit lamp exam, with potential reach far beyond the hospital toward community optometry, bringing nuanced measuring tools closer to home for patients.”

Working with IDCP Scotland, who manufacture digital technology, the device will now be put into production with a grant from Scottish Enterprise.

Jamie Thomson, managing director of IDCP Scotland, said: “As a University of Strathclyde alumnus, it gives me great pride to be working closely with the team helping to develop this technology, which has the potential to improve the quality of patient care and fits within IDCP Scotland’s key objective to revolutionise patient care within ophthalmology.”

Eye cancer – signs to spot

Around 750 cases of eye cancer (ocular cancer) are diagnosed in the UK each year.

There are a number of different types of cancer that affect the eyes, including:

  • Eye melanoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Retinoblastoma – a childhood cancer.

Cancer can also sometimes develop in the tissues surrounding your eyeball or spread to the eye from other parts of the body, such as the lungs or breasts.

Eye cancer does not always cause obvious symptoms and may only be picked up during a routine eye test, which is why the new development holds promise.

According to the NHS, symptoms of eye cancer can include:

  • Shadows, flashes of light, or wiggly lines in your vision
  • Blurred vision
  • A dark patch in your eye that’s getting bigger
  • Partial or total loss of vision
  • Bulging of one eye
  • A lump on your eyelid or in your eye that’s increasing in size
  • pain in or around your eye, although this is rare.

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