Artificial intelligence (AI) is more accurate than doctors in diagnosing breast cancer from X-ray images, new research suggests.
An international team, including researchers from Google Health, Imperial College London and the NHS, designed and trained an AI model on mammography images from almost 29,000 women.
Findings published in the journal Nature show that the algorithm was able to correctly identify cancers from the images with a similar degree of accuracy to expert radiologists.
It was better at spotting cancer than a single doctor and was as good as two radiologists working together – the current system used in the NHS.
AI also reduced the proportion of screening errors – where cancer was either incorrectly identified or where it may have been missed.
In the future, such AI tools could support clinical decision-making and also alleviate the pressure on healthcare systems.
Dominic King from Google Health said: “Our team is really proud of these research findings, which suggest that we are on our way to developing a tool that can help clinicians spot breast cancer with greater accuracy.”
Professor Ara Darzi, report co-author and director of the Cancer Research UK Imperial Centre, added: “Screening programmes remain one of the best tools at our disposal for catching cancer early and improving outcomes for patients, but many challenges remain – not least the current volume of images radiologists must review.
“While these findings are not directly from the clinic, they are very encouraging, and they offer clear insights into how this valuable technology could be used in real life.
“There will of course a number of challenges to address before AI could be implemented in mammography screening programmes around the world, but the potential for improving healthcare and helping patients is enormous.”
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