Dr John Martin diagnosed his own stage four cancer last summer – using only his iPhone.
The 59-year-old doctor is a vascular surgeon and the chief medical officer at Butterfly Network, a company that has invented a handheld ultrasound machine that can connect to an iPhone called the Butterfly iQ.
While the product was being tested for FDA clearance in July, Dr Martin decided to scan his own neck using the device because he felt a mass in his throat.
The results that popped up on his phone screen revealed he had metastatic cancer.
After surgery, it was downgraded to stage three and now, coming to the end of six weeks of radiation, doctors say he looks set to be cured.
Vascular surgeon Dr John Martin, 59, diagnosed himself with cancer last summer using an iPhone
Dr Martin used a device called the Butterfly iQ, which can connect to an iPhone, to perform an ultrasound. The result popped up instantly on his cell phone (file photo)
Dr Martin said that the opportunity to try the technology on himself arose when the product was being tested in Denver, Colorado, earlier this year.
‘I noticed this mass in my neck,’ he said. He tested himself by performing an ultrasound with the Butterfly iQ and looking at the instant results on his iPhone.
‘I realized I was holding the diagnostic study I needed in my hand,’ he said.
Dr Martin, who has been a physician for 40 years, said he suspected the results were not good, but he consulted with a nearby technician to make sure that was the case.
‘I walked across to a technician, and we looked at each other, and I flew home the next morning.’ But the first thing he thought when he saw the image was that he was thankful his team had invented the ultrasound technology.
‘There’s a million things that go through your mind,’ Dr Martin said. But one unexpected thought he had when he realized he had cancer was: ‘I’m glad I’ve got this picture.’
Butterfly Network founder Jonathan Rothberg said that the speed of his employee’s diagnosis was the goal he had in mind when designing the iQ technology.
The revolutionary aspect of the Butterfly iQ is that the results of an ultrasound appear immediately on an iPhone screen.
The product will be used in clinical trials in 2018, and during the studies doctors will send the devices home with high-risk patients who could benefit from an immediate ultrasound.
Rothberg and Dr Martin said that their technology could help patients with diabetes, lung problems and other ailments.
Dr Martin works for the company that created the Butterfly iQ, and his team hopes that it will bring imaging technology to remote places where people do not have access to ultrasound machinery (file photo)
Dr Martin said he realized he was the case study his company was looking for when he looked at his ultrasound results
WHAT IS SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA?
The cancer that Dr Martin was diagnosed with is common, and it occurs when skin cells on the outer layer of one’s skin malfunction.
The skin cells begin to develop uncontrollably.
The following are factors that make a person more prone to develop a squamous cell carcinoma:
- fair skin
- having been sunburned repeatedly
- prolonged sun exposure
- history of using tanning beds
- having previously had skin cancer
- weak immune system
- xeroderma pigmentosum (a rare genetic disorder)
Wearing sunscreen can help people prevent the cancer.
Consistently checking your skin for changes and reporting them to your doctor can also help you avoid a squamous cell carcinoma.
Rothberg said that Dr Martin’s immediate ultrasound results sped up his access to radiation, adding that it could have taken up to two months to get other imaging results back.
And Rothberg added that he thought of his family members and loved ones when designing the product.
‘Those [saved] two months hopefully will make all of us a lot happier,’ Rothberg said.
Dr Martin returned to his home in Maryland to receive treatment for his squamous cell cancer. He had a procedure known as a trans-oral robotic surgery (TORS) to remove the tumor that was at the base of his tongue.
As he told his story, Rothberg pointed out that his cancer was detected by the artificial intelligence technology of the Butterfly iQ and treated surgically by a robot. ‘What an amazing transformation’ Dr Martin said.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer, and it forms in the outer and middle layers of the skin. If left untreated the cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
Squamous cell carcinomas frequently appear after a person has had increased exposure to sunlight or tanning beds. It is most often found on places that are typically sun-exposed, including the scalp, lips, ears and the backs of one’s hands.
However it can be found anywhere on the body including in the mouth and on the genitals.
Symptoms of the cancer include red nodules; sores; and red, raised patches.