AI beats experts in breast cancer detection

Mammogram. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Mammogram. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

The fifth industrial revolution – the convergence of technology and humans – is swiftly becoming a real thing, bringing with it newer technologies to improve human life.

Google Health has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) programmed that appears to be better at spotting breast cancer in mammograms than trained medical experts.

The AI outperforms radiologists by detecting cancers that specialists miss in image scans, while ignoring features falsely flagged as possible tumours, The Guardian reports.

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The programme has yet to be tested through clinical trials but has been tested in a study, the results of which were published in Nature. The study suggests that the software could make breast screening more effective and ease the financial burden on healthcare services.

“This is a great demonstration of how these technologies can enable and augment the human expert,” says Dominic King, UK head of Google Health. “The AI system is saying, ‘I think there may be an issue here, do you want to check?’ ”

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The programme was designed and trained using mammography images from more than 7 600 women in the UK and 15 000 women in the US.

The new system may also prevent “false positives” during routine screening – sparing women unnecessary surgery and stress, The Sun reports.

“This is a huge advance in the potential for early cancer detection,” says Dr Mozziyar Etemadi, a co-author of the study. “Breast cancer is one of the highest causes of cancer mortality in women. Finding cancer earlier means it can be smaller and easier to treat.”

Scott McKinney, a software engineer at Google Health, told Daily Mail the software works somewhat like a “spell-check”. “Computers are really good at these tasks. We hope someday this tool for radiologists becomes as ubiquitous as spell-check for writing email,” McKinney says.

Source: Google HealthThe Guardian, Nature, The Sun, Daily Mail

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