AI rivals human radiologists at breast-cancer detection

A comparison of three commercially available artificial intelligence (AI) systems for breast cancer detection has found that the best of them performs as well as a human radiologist. Researchers applied the algorithms to a database of mammograms captured during routine cancer screening of nearly 9000 women in Sweden. The results suggest that AI systems could relieve some of the burden that screening programmes impose on radiologists. They might also reduce the number of cancers that slip through such programmes undetected.

Population-wide screening campaigns can cut breast-cancer mortality drastically by catching tumours before they grow and spread. Many of these programmes employ a “double-reader” approach, in which each mammogram is assessed independently by two radiologists. This increases the procedure’s sensitivity – meaning that more breast abnormalities are caught – but it can strain clinical resources. AI-based systems might alleviate some of this strain – if their effectiveness can be proved.

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