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Microsoft AI helps diagnose cervical cancer faster

It might just be crucial to overloaded doctors in India.
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Chinnapong via Getty Images

In some cases, AI-assisted cancer detection might be more than a convenience -- it could be the key to getting a diagnosis in the first place. Microsoft and SRL Diagnostics have developed an AI tool that helps detect cervical cancer, freeing doctors in India and other countries where the sheer volume of patients could prove overwhelming. The team trained an AI to spot signs of the cancer by feeding it "thousands" of annotated cervical smear images to help it spot abnormalities (including pre-cancerous examples) that warrant a closer look. Doctors would only have to look at those slides that justify real concern.

A framework for using the AI is now ready for an "internal preview" at SRL. It's not in use in the field just yet, then, but that's considerably better than other AI cancer screening methods that typically don't exist as more than experiments.

There's an incentive to put this into use quickly. TechCrunch noted that roughly 67,000 women die of cervical cancer in India each year, or more than a quarter of the deaths worldwide. At the same time, there's just a handful of doctors that can process pap smears and help women take action. SRL alone receives over 100,000 samples per year, and 98 percent of those are normal. The AI would let doctors focus on just the two percent of sampels that are problematic and help women start treatment sooner.

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