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3 Ways AI Can Help Better Detect Breast Cancer

by Kate Harveston, published

While a mammogram can be a literal life-saver for many women and has transformed health care professionals' ability to spot early stages of breast cancer, there are still a few flaws present in the mammogram screening process that can negatively impact the accuracy of this test.

Breast cancer awareness and prevention is an important part of a woman’s health, and hearing about cases of breast cancer going undetected after receiving a mammogram can cause patients to mistrust the medical community.

So in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we’re going to look at how the rising use of artificial intelligent (AI) in routine diagnosis and treatments could transform and improve the way we screen for breast cancer.

Why Mammogram Accuracy Matters

An astonishing 1 in 8 women develops a form of breast cancer during her lifetime. Even if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, it's important to be mindful of just how prevalent this form of cancer is for women.

Males reading this article should care about the accuracy of mammograms all the same. Physicians recommend that men who demonstrate the symptoms of breast cancer or disease undergo this imaging test, too.

Plus, the accuracy of a mammogram could mean the difference between saving a patient's life. When breast cancer is accurately detected early on, physicians are in a better position to form a treatment plan that can reduce the disease’s impact on an individual's health.

How AI Could Be a Game Changer for Mammogram Reports

AI may just be the solution to many of the errors and issues currently present with mammogram screening. Here are the 3 simple ways AI could be a game changer for patients who undergo this crucial test.

1. Removing Content Bias

When you first step into your doctor's office, you may have a mental list of health concerns you're ready to discuss with your physician when they first enter the door. What you don’t realize, however, is that your doctor is likely to compare your symptoms and concerns with that of their other patients — a flaw which can lead to serious misdiagnosing down the road.

Although many of the biases doctors form aren’t conscious, they’re still likely to possess implicit biases that influence the medical treatment they build for their patients.

This means that what a doctor or radiologist saw in a previous mammogram scan can lead to misinterpretation of other patients' future test results. While a doctor may not consciously use their past experiences as a source of influence, these subconscious thoughts and opinions impact their work nevertheless.

When conducting a self-exam, you may also experience one of several drawbacks of breast self-examinations, which includes misdiagnosing lumps or changes. When you add AI into the mix, however, you remove the likelihood of misdiagnosing results that occur from simple human error.

2. Reduce the Likelihood of Misdiagnoses

Imagine going into your doctor's appointment and nervously waiting for your mammogram. After the results come back, you get the dreaded call that your test scanned positive for cancer. You go through a whirlwind of emotions only to conduct follow up testing that shows that you don't have cancer after all.

Unfortunately, nearly 6-8 in every 100 women who receive a mammogram will experience a false positive on their scan. But even more dangerous than receiving a false positive, perhaps, is undergoing a false negative.

Roughly 17% of breast cancer cases go overlooked on mammogram results. When doctors look through the x-rays, they may misinterpret cancerous growths and tumors. Using AI technology will hopefully reduce the number of misdiagnoses — whether positive or negative — and bring women the accurate results they need to make an informed decision about their health.

3. Free Up More Treatment Time for Patients

Millions of women get a mammogram test every year. These millions of tests lead to even more hours spent examining these results. But what does this mean for you as a patient? For many, it signifies even less time spent consulting with your physician or GYN and receiving the care that you deserve.

Doctors have to decide how they divvy up their time, but fortunately, AI is making their time-management easier. Rather than spending countless hours in a lab scrutinizing x-rays scans, they'll be able to devote a more substantial portion of their day to listening to and caring for their patients.

So, the benefits of AI work both ways. Not only will patients enjoy receiving more accurate diagnoses and test results, but they'll also experience greater time spent learning about their health issues and voicing their concerns with their physician.

AI is transforming the way doctors diagnose and treat patients. As this form of technology becomes more prevalent in the future, it may successfully change how patients experience their healthcare — mammograms included.

Photo Credit: SewCream /

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