By Staff writer
Using computers to read mammograms can significantly speed up the detection of breast cancer, claims new research.
The study found that breast X-rays scanned by a computer and a radiologist were as successful as those read by two radiologists.
In some cases, write the authors in the journal Radiology, the new combination improved tumour detection.
The study utilised software called Computer Aided Detection, or CAD.
The program scans mammograms for any suspicious features that may indicate a tumour and then highlights the irregularities on screen.
To assess the efficiency of CAD, researchers used more than 10,000 mammograms taken in 1996 that had been previously assessed using the standard method; scanning by two clinicians.
The X-rays were then scanned by CAD, and assessed by a radiologist who reviewed any areas highlighted by the computer.
The study found that the cancer detection rate using CAD was at least as good as the traditional method, and in some cases even more successful.
Professor Fiona Gilbert, a radiologist from Aberdeen University who led the study, said: “The results of this trial are very encouraging.
We have now embarked on a new study to confirm that the CAD result is still as good when used in real day-to-day decision-making about breast cancer diagnosis.”
The new prospective trial will look at 30,000 women in three breast screening centres in the UK.
Professor Stephen Duffy, an epidemiologist for Cancer Research UK, who also worked on the study, said: “The great advantage of CAD is that, if we confirm the very promising results of this study in a prospective trial, it could help manpower problems in the breast screening service.
“The CAD system would free-up hundreds of radiologists to work on more mammograms as only one instead of two would be required to work on each X-ray.”