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Artificial intelligence is making groundbreaking advances in the fight against breast cancer. 

Excluding skin cancers, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer for women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Estimates note the “average risk of a woman in the U.S. developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%” — meaning there is a 1 in 8 chance.

Dr. Larry Norton, the medical director of the Lauder Breast Center at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, spoke with CNN about how advances in AI technology aid breast cancer detection. Norton unpacked collaborative research conducted by MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital and Sloan Kettering.

An AI tool MIT used predicted cancer by identifying a “high risk” area in a woman’s breast that was “cancer developed” four years later. The result shows how AI can detect potential high risk areas that may go unnoticed by a doctor’s human eye when reading breast scans.

Norton explained that in this context, AI is a tool that helps “identify abnormalities.” He added that the technology can “look at mammograms and identify areas that a human radiologist may want to look at more carefully.”

“It’s called ‘computer assisted detection’ — it’s actually been around since the late 1990s. But the technology is always improving. It’s always getting better,” said Norton.


AI’s Place In Early Breast Cancer Detection

The biggest takeaway Norton outlined is that AI technology can help radiologists “identify risk.” A patient will still rely on their medical professionals to order special tests and personalize their care and treatment plans.

“We have to look at AI as a tool for helping radiologists look at the images better, but it’s not a standalone test. It’s not going to replace a radiologist,” Norton emphasized.

A large-scale study published in The Lancet Digital Health in July 2022 found that radiologists assisted by Vera AI technology screened for breast cancer more successfully than without it, according to MIT Technology Review. The study also found that AI “produces more accurate results” when guided by a radiologist than when operating solo.

RELATED CONTENT: “From Breast Cancer Survivor to ‘Breast Cancer Baddie,’ Marissa Thomas Founds Breast Cancer Support Group for Women of Color”

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