AI Shows Big Promise in Detecting Breast Cancer

Large new study out of Sweden shows artificial intelligence is on par with human radiologists
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2023 2:58 PM CDT
AI Reads Mammograms as Well as Human Radiologists
   (Getty / thomasandreas)

The biggest study of its kind to date suggests that artificial intelligence has great potential to help detect breast cancer from mammograms, reports the Guardian. The study, published in Lancet Oncology, involved more than 80,000 women in Sweden. Half of the women's mammograms were assessed by two radiologists without the assistance of AI, and the rest were assessed first by AI, then reevaluated by humans. The two groups ended up with a "similar rate" of cancer diagnoses, say researchers, per the BBC. In fact, AI actually detected more cases—244 vs. 203—and it wasn't because of misdiagnoses. The rate of false positives (1.5%) was the same for both groups.

"With mammography, our goal is to detect breast cancer as early as possible, to give each patient the best prognosis, so anything that will make us more accurate is a wonderful thing," Dr. Stamatia Destounis of Elizabeth Wende Breast Care in Rochester, New York, tells CNN. She was not involved with this study. Researchers emphasize that they don't see AI replacing humans anytime soon. "The greatest potential of AI right now is that it could allow radiologists to be less burdened by the excessive amount of reading," says lead author Kristina Lang of Lund University, per Politico.EU. (In Europe, though not in the US, it's standard practice to have two radiologists go over scans, notes CNN.)

The Boston Globe quotes British radiology professor James O'Connor, who says that if the public accepts AI screenings "as well as health care professionals, then this does have the potential to save a lot of time, and this could help with shortages in workflow." He added, however, that it's "nonsense" to think AI would ever completely supplant human radiologists. It could instead perform a helpful function, ultimately freeing specialists to focus more closely on more complex cases. (More breast cancer stories.)

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