Cancer-Spotting AI Might Be a Potential Threat
Sat, April 10, 2021

Cancer-Spotting AI Might Be a Potential Threat

Medical professionals have argued that early scans of breast cancer might negatively impact patients rather than help them / Credits: okrasyuk via 123RF

 

Artificial intelligence is known for diagnosing various diseases and cancers, which helps the healthcare industry improve their current systems. Recently, Google created an AI system that can spot breast cancer in mammograms more accurately than medical professionals. While this innovation can free up doctors’ time and prevent them from giving a false diagnosis, experts reveal that pushing medical AI can exacerbate existing problems. 

“There’s this idea in society that finding more cancers is always better, but it’s not always true. The goal is finding more cancers that are actually going to kill people. But the problem is there’s no gold standard for what constitutes cancer,” Adewole Adamson, a dermatologist and assistant professor at Dell Medical School, said. 

Experts have found much to say about Google’s new AI system. For instance, medical professionals have argued that early scans of breast cancer might negatively impact patients rather than help them, which can lead to overdiagnosis. According to The Verge, an American technology news and media network that publishes news items, long-form feature stories, guidebooks, product reviews, and podcasts, once a ‘cancer’ has been identified, it will trigger a chain of medical interventions that can be painful, costly, and life-changing.

For breast cancer patients, this could mean going through radiation treatments, chemotherapy, the removal of tissue from the breast (a lumpectomy), or the removal of one or both breasts entirely (a mastectomy). Also, experts emphasized that the mammograms used by the Google team can’t provide a good baseline for cancer diagnosis. However, the team stated that their algorithms’ reductions in false-positive rates would lessen the threat of overdiagnosis. They added that they are planning to investigate more in the future since the paper was still “early-stage research.”

“This is exactly the kind of research we will be engaging in with our partners as a next step. We hope to be exploring workflow considerations, user-interface considerations, among many other areas,” a Google Health spokesperson said.