Emerging app-based technology now makes early detection of severe adverse effects (AEs) from breast cancer treatment easier for women, according to a new study conducted by Georgia Tech.

A severe AE of breast cancer, lymphedema, can affect approximately 20% of survivors of the disease and is often overlooked, according to the researchers. Lymphedema can cause the arms to swell with lymph, and the new technology will allow for a more proactive treatment of the AE.

The new study has found that the lymphedema monitoring technology, marketed by LymphaTech, can effectively detect early arm swelling associated with lymphedema in breast cancer patients.

Mental health can also be improved with the new technology, according to Brandon Dixon, co-leader of the study and associate professor at Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

“Severe depression is very high,” Dixon said in a press release. “If you detect it early, managing it could cost as little as $2500 in a patient’s lifetime. If you catch it too late, the costs can rise as high as $200,000.”

There is a German device available to accurately detect arm swelling caused by lymphedema, known as a perometer, that are rarely available in the United States. With this, the research team was able to find 1 in metropolitan Atlanta to use as a benchmark against the LymphaTech system.

The LymphaTech system can run on an iPhone or iPad and requires a $400 camera attachment and a paid smartphone application in order to work properly.

Although the technology is innovative, spreading awareness of lymphedema itself was a barrier that researchers had to overcome, according to the press release.

“The real battle has been to convince a medical market that has not much cared about lymphedema in the past or sought solutions to care,” Dixon said in the release. “Hopefully, the high accessibility of our solution will make it easier to care.”

The camera attachment required for LymphaTech can create point clouds and 3D representations of objects, including human arms. The app uses the 3D representation of the arms to calculate the total arm volume and avoids human error that occurs when recording arm volume with a tape measure, which is the current method to assess lymphedema in patients. Clinicians are then able to compare the arm pictured with the unaffected arm for easier gauging of disease severity.

REFERENCE
App detects harsh side effect of breast cancer treatment [news release]. Atlanta, GA; Georgia Tech: March 16, 2020. https://news.gatech.edu/2020/03/16/app-detects-harsh-side-effect-breast-cancer-treatment. Accessed March 20, 2020.