Artificial intelligence is powering an effort to detect breast cancer, a disease that kills more than 600 Kiwis each year.
Screening for breast cancer has made a world of difference since free mammograms were first offered here around 20 years ago. Deaths from the disease are down 27 percent.
But it is difficult to isolate cancers in mammogram images of particularly dense breast tissue – both types appear white on typical X-rays. So scientists and radiographers have had to innovate to increase breast cancer detection accuracy.
Wellington-based Volpara Health Technologies is a world leader in software for automatically and objectively assessing a woman’s breast density.
Using Volpara’s software, doctors can identify patients who would benefit from additional imaging, such as ultrasound. This technique helps detect cancers in their earliest stages, reducing the incidence of ‘interval cancers’ arising between breast screenings and reducing treatment costs overall.
The Volpara system relies on Power BI, Microsoft’s suite of AI tools, to analyse every mammogram to assess breast density. That involves storing large numbers of images that Volpara can use to train its detection software.
“The Azure platform meets the highest security standards globally while at the same time being accessible. It allows us to securely store the images we need to further develop and deploy our AI solutions”, says Dr Ralph Highnam, Volpara’s Chief Executive.