AI Saved My Life – My Melanoma Journey

WARNING: Don’t read if you don’t like nudity!

Yes, you read that correctly: AI saved my life. there are AI optimists and AI doomers. When some people think about AI, they worry about how dangerous it might be. However, more often than not, AI helps humans. I’d like to share my melanoma journey and how my tech-savvy dermatologist saved me with AI.

Aussie Life in the Sun

I grew up like most Australians my age, not particularly wary of the sun. I often got burnt and sometimes was in pain for a few days as I waited for the burn to subside. By the time my 2 girls came along, I had learned to cover up to protect my skin. These days you’ll never see me outside without a shirt, hat, and more often than not, some sunscreen.

Like me, my girls have grown up outside at the beach, but you’ll never see them leave the house without their sunscreen on. To them, sun safety is no joke.

Figure: Eve and I at the beach a long long time ago…

The Rise of Melanoma

More Australians die from melanoma than in car accidents (in fact 1.3x more). If not caught early, melanoma can travel through your bloodstream and pop up elsewhere. Early detection is vital. That’s why most Aussies get their skin checked every year. I’ve had a lot burnt off so I go every 6 months.

Melanoma stats
Figure: over 90% of melanoma cases can be successfully treated when caught early! ❤️‍🩹

AI Assisting Dermatologists

I’ve been curious about how AI might help doctors ever since SSW was involved in building BREAST with Sydney Uni. BREAST is a diagnostic teaching tool for Radiologists, that helps them more accurately identify breast cancers, and therefore decrease misdiagnosis.

A few weeks ago, I was chatting to Uly in the Sydney office and he told me about Dr. Seit who uses AI to help detect skin cancers. Being an AI enthusiast, I had to go and find out how they were doing this… I hesitated because I had only recently 2 months ago had my skin checked, and had been given the all-clear. However I wanted to get the AI experience before the NDC Conference, so I decided to pay and do another check… thank goodness I did.

Dr. Seit asked me to take off my shirt, and to the naked eye, nothing looked very suspicious. He took heaps of pictures of my skin with his mobile phone, which I saw appearing over on his PC.

There are 2 pieces of magic that Dr. Seit uses:

  • First, there’s DermEngine which analyses the photos and identifies the problem areas. You see many circles around the candidates and red circles around the ones that need inspecting.
Dr Seit analyzing my skin
Figure: Dr. Seit analyzing my photos in DermEngine
AI comparing melanomas
Figure: The AI comparing my melanoma with very similar ones that were cancerous
  • Second, he uses a device that uses Laser Induced Plasma Spectroscopy by Speclipse called Spectro-Scope, which gives it a number, and anything over 7 is bad news.

Spectro-scope uses a few nano-second pulses of light to induce plasma on the skin without any tissue damage. It’s 95% accurate and it confirmed what DermEngine thought, one was suspicious. I had what’s called an Ugly Duckling.

The Diagnosis

On the AI’s recommendation, Dr. Seit took a biopsy.

That evening, I got a call from Dr. Seit, and I answered it by saying “Am I dying Doc?” in a joking voice.

He replied in a serious tone “I need you to come back in first thing tomorrow, I’ve cleared my calendar.”

I was there well before 9 am ready to be cut open. I now have a pretty big scar, but more importantly, no cancer in my bloodstream which can be fatal! 😥

Adam having his stitches removed
Figure: Getting my stitches removed
Adam Cogan sharing his melanoma removal site
Figure: My incision – ouch! My nipples don’t perfectly align anymore…

Dr. Seit and AI saved my life. 🤖❤️

Adam Cogan and Dr. Seit
Figure: My life-saver, Dr. Seit

If you suspect any skin cancer, go get it checked immediately. Ideally with a Dermatologist that uses AI.