Next Step in Digital Health
The news: DeepMind and Google Health have developed a new AI system to help doctors detect breast cancer early. The researchers trained an algorithm on mammogram images from female patients in the US and UK, and it performed better than human radiologists. The results were published in Nature on Wednesday.
A tragedy of errors: Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women globally, and their second leading cause of death. Though early detection and treatment can improve a patient’s prognosis, screening tests have high rates of error. About 1 in 5 screenings fail to find breast cancer even when it’s present, also known as a false negative; 50% of women who receive annual mammograms also get at least one false alarm over a 10-year period, known as a false positive.
The results: In tests, the AI system decreased both types of error. For US patients, it reduced false negatives and positives by 9.4% and 5.7%, respectively; for UK patients it reduced them by 2.7% and 1.2%. In a separate experiment, the researchers tested the system’s ability to generalize: they trained the model using only mammograms from UK patients, and then evaluated its performance on US patients. The system still outperformed human radiologists, reducing false negatives and positives by 8.1% and 3.5%.