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Computers used in breast screening

A new study has suggested that replacing humans with computers could speed up the breast screening process.

In the UK, the results of mammogram X-rays are traditionally examined for signs of cancer by two experts, but the new findings suggest that the job can be done just as efficiently by a single radiologist assisted by a computer.

The US and some other European countries already use a system whereby one person is employed to read mammograms without computer help.

Research funded by Cancer Research UK and led by Professor Fiona Gilbert from the University of Aberdeen found that screening women using a single radiologist plus the computer aided detection (CAD) system was just as effective at detecting cancer as the conventional method.

CAD acts like a second pair of eyes, looking for and marking breast abnormalities and suspicious “regions of interest” that show up on X-rays,

Professor Gilbert said: “The study has huge international significance. Using CAD is likely to improve breast cancer detection in those countries where only a single reader is used.

“In the UK, it will mean that the same number of experts can read more mammograms in a given period of time. We want to offer screening to a wider age group, those 47-50 years old and 70-73 years old, an increase of around 30%.”

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Cancer Research UK