A new Artificial Intelligence (AI) breast screening solution, called Mia, has recently been piloted at NHS Grampian to identify tiny signs of breast cancer, that would be otherwise hard to spot with the human eye.

The tool, funded by a UK government ‘AI in Health and Care Award’, was tested alongside NHS clinicians and analysed the mammograms of over 10,000 women. The tool successfully highlighted all cases where breast cancer was present and supported doctors in finding breast cancer in an extra 11 women that the doctors did not identify.

When cancers are at their earliest stage, they can be extremely small and practically invisible to the human eye. Early detection of breast cancer is vital, as it can lead to less invasive treatment, and much higher survival rates.

According to a BBC online report, The Royal College of Radiologists agree this new tool has potential.

Dr Katharine Halliday, President of the Royal College of Radiologists, said:

These results are encouraging and help to highlight the exciting potential Artificial Intelligence presents for diagnostics. There is no question that real-life clinical radiologists are essential and irreplaceable, but a clinical radiologist using insights from validated AI tools will increasingly be a formidable force in patient care.

AI will play a vital role in the future of the NHS, yet it doesn’t detract that it will be in partnership with clinicians and in this instance, not instead of breast radiologists.

Nikki Barraclough, CEO of Prevent Breast Cancer, said:

Developments in technology have the potential to play an incredibly important role in breast cancer detection and diagnosis and these results indicate a clear route for AI to help improve our processes, and potentially to alleviate some of the pressures faced by the breast imaging workforce.

However, it’s important to remember that while AI may assist with diagnosis it can never replace the vital role our health professionals play, and it remains as important as ever that we invest in the future generations of breast imaging specialists.

AI technology will not be able to perform a mammogram or ultrasound, or to view an image with context. Despite these encouraging findings, we will continue to need skilled people to deliver a first-rate breast screening service in the UK.

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in the UK, with GP referrals to breast units doubling in the last ten years. Yet severe staff shortages means breast cancer units are closing across the country –  almost 12% breast radiologist and radiographic posts are vacant nationally, and by 2025, much of the beloved workforce will be retiring.

Prevent Breast Cancer is therefore on a mission to futureproof breast cancer screening by building The National Breast Imaging Academy (NBIA), designed to provide more screenings, more staff, and more research into breast cancer.

The NBIA will be an extension of The Nightingale Centre, the home of Prevent Breast Cancer, and will provide a solution to the workforce shortages by delivering the space and facilities to train a sustainable workforce to support breast services across the country.

Nikki continued:

The NBIA is one route towards investing in this workforce. Already operating in a virtual capacity, we are now fundraising for the construction of a physical training centre that will increase the numbers of breast imaging specialists in the UK.

As a charity, we will continue to champion research and developments in breast screening, including further research into AI as a tool to complement the vital work carried out by the UK breast screening services.

To find out more about The NBIA, we invite you to be part of our journey for a brighter healthier future for all, by registering your details to receive updates on our progress and information on opportunities to support this campaign.

Published On: March 21st, 2024 /

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About Prevent Breast Cancer

Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer – we’re committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, we’re focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, we’re right at the front-line in the fight against the disease. Join us today and help us create a future free from breast cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, email us today.