AI beats doctors at detecting early stage cervical cancer

• Artificial intelligence may be poised to wipe out cervical cancer, after a study showed on Thursday that computer algorithms can detect pre-cancerous lesions far better than trained experts or conventional screening tests.

• According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women with an estimated 570,000 new cases globally in 2018.

Key highlights of the study

• Despite major advances in screening and vaccination, which can prevent the spread of human papillomavirus which causes most cases of cervical cancer, those gains have mainly benefited women in rich nations.

• Some 266,000 women died of cervical cancer globally in 2012, 90% of them in low-and middle-income nations, according to the WHO.

• The study began in the 1990s, involving more than 9,400 women who were followed for up to 18 years.

• The AI technique, called automated visual evaluation, found precancerous cells with 91% accuracy, according to a report published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

• In comparison, a human expert review found 69% of pre-cancers, while conventional lab tests like Pap smears found 71%.

• Among women aged 25-49, who face the highest risk of cervical cancer, the AI algorithm was even more accurate, finding 97.7% of pre-cancerous cells.

Clinical trial

• The goal is to roll out the technology in the next three to five years, enrolling more patients in clinical trials worldwide.

• The technology has not been patented on purpose, he said. The aim is to keep costs low so that women most in need can benefit.

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Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology

Prelims level: Cervical cancer

Mains level: Read the story

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