While screening mammograms are not fun, they are an important step in early detection of breast cancer and today they can be improved with the power of artificial intelligence or AI. Screening mammograms are performed for women over age 40 and for younger women with a strong family history of breast cancer.
However, mammography screening for breast cancer is imperfect. Out of the 230,000 cases of breast cancer that were diagnosed in the U.S. last year, about 45% of those cases were discovered in the later stages of cancer which leads to more complicated treatment and a reduced chance of a cure.
Now, just imagine if there were a way to improve the detection of early stage cancers, reduce unnecessary biopsies and office callbacks, and detect more breast cancers using mammography. Today, there is new computer software trained with deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence, that can augment the clinical expertise of the radiologist (the doctor reading your mammogram).
Yes, AI, the same type of software that powers Siri, ATM check readers, and self-driving cars can help in analyzing your mammogram. Research shows that AI software can improve the accuracy of mammography readings and may lead to earlier detection of cancers, up to five years prior to diagnosis.
So how does AI work for my mammogram?
The radiology technologist takes your mammogram and uploads your digital images, as they usually do, into the computer server. Then, using the AI-based software, your images are automatically analyzed to detect and mark abnormalities on the mammogram prior to review by the radiologist. Using AI to pre-analyze mammograms is like having a second pair of eyes. The suspicion level for cancer for a given abnormality can also be numerically calculated by the AI software, based on its training using a large database of biopsy proven cases.
This pre-reading by the software, aids the radiologist in evaluating suspicious areas, which is especially helpful for women with dense breasts who have an abundance of tissue that can obscure cancers on mammograms.
How do I get AI included as part of my mammogram?
First, work with a breast care team that is using AI based software as part of their mammography program. If your current facility has not licensed AI software to supplement the interpretation of your mammogram, you can still have it read at a facility that has the software in place. Another option is to access an online teleradiology service to obtain a second reading performed with the aid of AI.
What if I am considering a second opinion of my mammogram?
There are many reasons you may want to consider a second opinion of a mammogram. For example, if you were diagnosed with cancer or if you have conflicting opinions, you may want to confirm the diagnosis before starting treatment. Perhaps you lack confidence in your original reading or have high risk factors.
Regardless of your reason, if you do decide on a second opinion interpretation of your mammogram, having it performed with the assistance of AI makes the reading more robust. You can get a second opinion with the aid of AI-based software through selected facilities or online, in the privacy of your own home, through a second opinion teleradiology program.
So, whether you are going in for your routine mammogram or seeking a second opinion, make it count with the expertise of a radiologist who is supported with the power of artificial intelligence to enhance accuracy and increase your peace of mind.