New AI System From Google Could Improve Breast Cancer Detection

Google has developed an artificial intelligence system capable of detecting the presence of breast cancer more accurately than current technology. A study on the AI system was published Wednesday, January 1, in the scientific journal Nature.

According to the publication, the AI system was developed in collaboration with engineers from Google and cancer researchers. The AI was trained to detect cancer using thousands of mammograms from the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Early research shows the system can produce more accurate detection of breast cancer than human radiologists using mammography alone. The technology resulted in fewer false positives and fewer false negatives.

“The earlier you identify breast cancer the better it is for the patient,” said Dominic King, UK lead at Google Health. “We think about this technology in a way that supports and enables an expert, or a patient ultimately, to get the best outcome from whatever diagnostics they’ve had.”

AI could help doctors diagnose patients more efficiently

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and is the leading cause of cancer-related death in women. In 2019, there were 6,900 breast cancer-related deaths in Arkansas. Globally, one person dies of breast cancer every 50 seconds.

Screening mammograms are currently the most used technology in breast cancer screening programs. But mammograms aren’t able to detect one in five breast cancers. Researchers involved in the Google study noted in the Nature publication that even the best clinicians had room for improvement.

“AI may be uniquely poised to help with this challenge,” researchers said.

The AI system could not only be used to double-check breast cancer screenings, but they could also be used to address shortages in radiologists. Up to 75% of radiology department directors in the UK feel there are insufficient clinical radiologists to deliver effective and safe patient care.

Faster, more efficient breast cancer diagnoses could also reduce treatment and rehabilitation costs for patients. Rehabilitation services alone constitute one-third of all healthcare expenditures in the United States.

How can I reduce my risk of breast cancer?

Although there’s no direct cause of breast cancer, there are several factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease. These factors include genetics, ethnicity, daily exercise, and diet. Textured breast implants have also been associated with breast cancer, but saline implants only have a 1% rupture rate.

To reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, experts suggest:

  • Performing regular self-exams: Self-exams are important, especially because mammograms aren’t recommended until you’ve reached the age of 50.
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day: Just like how the AAP recommends avoiding screen time for kids under a year old, it’s not good for your body to sit for long periods of time in front of a computer screen, either. Exercise helps to keep the body active and promotes healthy functioning.
  • Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables: You don’t need to completely change your diet to eat healthier. Just reading the food label on a package can reduce your intake of unhealthy foods by 13%. Try to eat healthier foods throughout the day to give your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs to stay healthy.

Consult your doctor if you notice any changes in your breast tissue such as skin changes or a new lump. Be vigilant about self-exams and breast cancer detection.