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AI Helps Detect Breast Cancer

AI may be poised to transform a host of industries, and one promising development is occurring in the field of radiology, according to the New York Times (subscription). 

What’s happening: “The technology is showing an impressive ability to spot cancer at least as well as human radiologists, according to early results and radiologists, in what is one of the most tangible signs to date of how A.I. can improve public health.”

  • Dr. Laszlo Tabar, a leading mammography educator in Europe whose techniques for reading a mammogram are widely used by radiologists, “tried the software in 2021 by retrieving several of the most challenging cases of his career in which radiologists missed the signs of a developing cancer. In every instance, the AI spotted it.”

How it measures up: According to last year’s data from one Hungarian clinic, “the technology increased the cancer detection rate by 13% percent because more malignancies were identified.”

  • Beyond that, using AI could help guard against burnout for overworked radiologists who spend hours reviewing hundreds of images daily. AI software development company Kheiron said use of its technology last year in Hungary “cut down on radiologists’ workloads by at least 30% because it reduced the number of x-rays they needed to read.”

Work in progress: Of course, more clinical trials are needed before the AI moves into wide use as a second or third “reader” on the cancer screenings first conducted by doctors.

  • In addition, “the tool must also show it can produce accurate results on women of all ages, ethnicities and body types.”
  • Kheiron’s co-founder Peter Kecskemethy says, “An AI-plus-doctor should replace doctor alone, but an AI should not replace the doctor.”

Why it matters: Even if the AI has only a modest impact on the field of radiology, it will still save lives.

  • “In 2020, there were 2.3 million breast cancer diagnoses and 685,000 deaths from the disease, according to the World Health Organization.”
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