It's a device that looks much like a small computer, with a handheld imager in place of a mouse.
The images that it captures and stores could save a life.
It's called MelaFind, aptly named for finding Melanoma at it's most curable stage.
“We are the only group in Tennessee to have it,” said Dr. Michael Gold of Gold Skin Care Center.
Dr. Gold travels the globe teaching high-tech laser technology for the skin, but MelaFind, located at his Green Hills office, is one-of-a-kind. It can detect the potential for Melanoma with 98% accuracy.
“This tool, this MelaFind, is that first tool of detection, and again, with its high specificity, I can detect melanoma and bad moles at a really early stage,” Dr. Gold explained.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, a tumor of the skin. The American Cancer Society estimates 76,690 new cases will be diagnosed this year. While Melanoma accounts for less than five percent of all skin cancers, it causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths.
“Melanoma is a killer,” Dr. Gold said.
“Going into somebody's exam room and having to explain to them they have a malignant Melanoma, that's the worst thing I do,” he added, “and I don't want to do it much so if I can detect early, MelaFind is the perfect thing for that.”
Medical Assistant Tresa Rodgers demonstrated MelaFind for Nashville's News 2.
“We're just taking a picture of the mole,” she said. “Once we take the picture, it shows all the different layers of it.”
MelaFind views moles layer-by-layer, by shining a light of 10 different wavelengths to capture lesion images. Those images are then evaluated for shape, color and size. Through a series of images, doctors determine if the mole can be perceived as safe or if it needs to be removed.
“I'm a dermatologist, and I take moles off all day. That's what I do for a living and that's fine to a point,” said Dr. Gold. “We want to sort of pick-and-choose, and this device helps us pick-and-choose.”
The device is a technological breakthrough, but it's not for everyone. There are restrictions for certain types of skin growth.
MelaFind is for those with a personal or family history of Melanoma, those with numerous moles, and those at high risk, including tanning bed users.
MelaFind is FDA approved, but not covered by medical insurance.
Dr. Gold tries to keep costs down at his office, but he hopes healthcare companies will soon get on board.
“Early detection saves lives. Bottom line is if I can save lives, then I've done my job,” he said.
In addition to skin screenings, Dr. Gold recommends patients perform a self-check of moles by following the ABC's of skin care to check Asymmetry, Borders, Color, and Diameter for irregularities. Patients with concerns about moles should see a dermatologist for evaluation.