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These differences in error reduction reflect differences between the United States and the UK in how the mammograms are read.
In the US, women tend to be screened every one to two years and one radiologist only examines the results. In Britain, women are screened every three years and the results are examined by two radiologists, with a third radiologist consulted if the first two disagree. The development could be used to improve screening
The findings suggest that AI could improve the accuracy of screening in the US and maintain a similar level of quality in the UK, with the technology being used to assist or replace a second radiologist.
"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,” says King.
King continued, "Further testing, clinical validation and regulatory approvals are required before this could start making a difference for patients, but we're committed to working with our partners towards this goal."
In the UK, breast cancer screening has been placed under particular strain due to a shortage of at least 1,100 radiologists, according to The Royal College of Radiologists. In the case of breast radiology, 8% of hospitals are unfilled, largely because older radiologists are retiring more quickly than new radiologists are joining.
Like the rest of the health service, breast imaging, and UK radiology more widely, is understaffed and desperate for help… AI programs will not solve the human staffing crisis, as radiologists and imaging teams do far more than just look at scans, but they will undoubtedly help by acting as a second pair of eyes and a safety net.” Caroline Rubin, Vice-president for clinical radiology, The Royal College of Radiologists
Rubin says the next step is for the technology to be used in clinical trials, evaluated in practice and used on patients screened in real-time.
Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, says that although breast cancer screening helps diagnose cancer in the early stages when treatment is likely to be more effective, it can also fail to detect cancers, or it may flag up cancers that would never have gone on to cause harm.
“This is still early stage research, but it shows how AI could improve breast cancer screening and ease pressure off the NHS,” says Mitchell. “ And while further clinical studies are needed to see how and if this technology could work in practice, the initial results are promising," she concludes. Journal reference:
McKinney, et al. (2019). International evaluation of an AI system for breast cancer screening. Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1799-6
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