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China enlists AI to diagnose breast cancer

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-07-08 11:06

TIANJIN - Doctors in China will soon read patient breast scans with the help of machines.

The National Clinical Research Center for Cancer (NCRCC) said Friday that it has signed a deal with the Institute of Computing Technology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to use artificial intelligence in medical imaging.

Their first cooperation focus lies in reading ultrasound breast scans and mammograms, two common methods used in breast screening.

The aim is to improve diagnosis accuracy and encourage breast cancer screening in regions of high prevalence and rural areas where experienced medical professionals are in short supply, according to the agreement.

"Medical imaging is where artificial intelligence can play a big role," said Zhao Yi, a CAS computer professor. "We use deep learning technology to build models based on the experience of radiologitsts."

He said the machine would have read hundreds of thousands of breast scan reports before it assumes the post of a doctor's assistant. When it is called on to read the scans, the machine can produce a highly-accurate report in just a few seconds.

It is not immediately clear when clinical use will begin and how many hospitals will benefit.

Chinese scientists with state institutions or leading tech firms are racing to achieve breakthroughs in use of artificial intelligence. Health care has been identified as a promising area for the technology.

Breast cancer is the most common malignant tumor among Chinese women, with about 272,000 new cases reported in China in 2015. More than 71,000 people died of breast cancer that year.

NCRCC director Hao Xishan said that if found early, 95 percent of breast cancer patients could be cured. However, challenges remain in rural and remote areas where patients often do not get tested until it is too late.

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