A recent study published in the journal Nature has identified that artificial intelligence (AI) can detect breast cancer more accurately than doctors.
Women are currently invited for NHS breast screening (mammograms) every three years between the ages of 50 and 70.
The standard system for reviewing mammograms involves two different radiologists checking the images to spot potential cancer. Two radiologists are used to try and minimise errors in interpretation of results by ensuring there is a system of double checking. It takes over 10 years for a doctor to be trained and then specialise as a radiologist who can interpret mammograms.
As part of the study, a computer model was created with input from Google Health and Imperial College London to analyse the mammogram images in seconds. The results showed that the artificial intelligence outperformed radiologists in detecting cancer. Compared to a single radiologist, AI was 2.7% better at identifying cancer otherwise missed by a radiologist. It was also 1.2% better at avoiding false positives, where a radiologist had interpreted a normal mammogram as being abnormal.
AI was just as accurate as the current system of two radiologists double checking the mammogram results, which could have significant benefits for saving time and resources in the NHS, as well as improving cancer detection rates.
AI is unlikely to take over from doctors completely, but could eliminate the need for two radiologists to interpret mammograms, and also improve the accuracy of screening and ensure fewer cancers are missed and that fewer women are undergoing invasive testing for potential cancer when a mammogram was actually normal.
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Author: Laura Armstrong, medical negligence solicitor