Breast cancer

Updated 08 November 2017

Software speeds up analysis of breast cancer risk

New software can review millions of records in a short amount of time, enabling doctors to determine breast cancer risk more efficiently.

Software that quickly analyses mammograms and patient history to determine breast cancer risk could save time and reduce unnecessary biopsies, according to the developers of the technology.

Artificial intelligence

The software was used to evaluate mammograms and pathology reports of 500 breast cancer patients. It did so 30 times faster than doctors and with 99 percent accuracy, the Houston Methodist Cancer Centre researchers said.

Read: Longer hormone therapy reduces breast cancer recurrence

Manual review of 50 patient charts took two doctors 50 to 70 hours, while the software reviewed 500 charts in a few hours, saving more than 500 physician hours, according to the study.

"Accurate review of this many charts would be practically impossible without [artificial intelligence]," said team co-leader Stephen Wong Wong. He's chair of the department of systems medicine and bio-engineering.

"This software intelligently reviews millions of records in a short amount of time, enabling us to determine breast cancer risk more efficiently using a patient's mammogram. This has the potential to decrease unnecessary biopsies," Wong said in a cancer centre news release.

False-positive results

The study results were published recently in the journal Cancer.

Read: Breast cancer patients choose to have healthy breast removed

About 12 million mammograms are performed each year in the United States, according to the federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Fifty percent yield false-positive results, according to the American Cancer Society, which means one in every two healthy patients is told she has breast cancer.

When mammograms yield suspicious findings, breast biopsies are recommended. More than 1.6 million breast biopsies are performed annually nationwide, but about 20 percent are unnecessarily performed due to false-positive mammogram results of cancer free breasts, the cancer society says.

This new software may help doctors better evaluate a patient's breast cancer risk, the Houston Methodist researchers said.

Read more: 

Symptoms of breast cancer

Treating breast cancer

Preventing breast cancer


Ask the Expert

Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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