Rise of robot radiologists

Credit: Harry Campbell

(Sara Reardon/ Scientific American) — WHEN REGINA BARZILAY had a routine mammogram in her early 40s, the image showed a complex array of white splotches in her breast tissue. The marks could be normal, or they could be cancerous—even the best radiologists often struggle to tell the difference. Her doctors decided the spots were not immediately worrisome. In hindsight, she says, “I already had cancer, and they didn’t see it.”

Over the next two years Barzilay underwent a second mammogram, a breast MRI and a biopsy, all of which continued to yield ambiguous or conflicting findings. Ultimately she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, but the path to that diagnosis had been unbelievably frustrating. “How do you do three tests and get three different results?” she wondered.

Barzilay was treated and made a good recovery. But she remained horrified that the uncertainties of reading a mammogram could delay treatment. “I realized to what extent we are unprotected with current approaches,” she says, so she made a career-altering decision: “I absolutely have to change it.” (…)

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