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AI-Powered Portable Thermal Imaging Solution Could Complement Mammography for Breast Cancer Screening

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 22 May 2024

Breast cancer remains a major global health concern for women, with increasing incidence rates and mortality. In many low- and middle-income countries, the challenge is exacerbated by limited affordability and access to mammography screening and diagnosis. A new study has now shown promising results for a breast cancer pre-screening solution (BCPS) that utilizes a smartphone-based thermal imaging sensor and artificial intelligence (AI), offering an effective early detection tool particularly in regions where mammography is not readily available or accessible.

In this retrospective clinical validation study, researchers at Erebouni Medical Center (Yerevan, Armenia) evaluated a BCPS based on a commercially available smartphone with a thermal imaging sensor powered by AI developed by Thermaiscan Technology (Stockholm, Sweden). The study aimed to compare the performance of the BCPS with mammography, which is the gold standard for initial breast cancer screening. Over a six-month period, the team screened 478 women using the BCPS, 45 of whom were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer via biopsy. Each participant underwent the BCPS screening prior to following the standard mammography pathway; if malignancy was suspected from mammography, a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis and served as the definitive comparison for the BCPS AI results.

Image: AI analyzes smartphone-based thermal images of chest for breast cancer risk-predictions (Photo courtesy of Thermaiscan Technology)
Image: AI analyzes smartphone-based thermal images of chest for breast cancer risk-predictions (Photo courtesy of Thermaiscan Technology)

When patient-reported or clinical symptoms were considered alongside the BCPS results, the tool demonstrated a sensitivity of 89% and a specificity of 83% relative to mammography. Without accounting for these symptoms, sensitivity dropped to 60%, although specificity increased to 88.2%. The BCPS has potential applications in high-income countries as well, such as pre-screening women outside the recommended age range for breast cancer screening, or offering an alternative for those reluctant to undergo mammography due to fear, psychological barriers, financial issues, limited availability, cultural factors, or lack of awareness. Going forward, further research could explore additional applications of the BCPS, including the evaluation of pathological lymph nodes and comparisons with other breast cancer screening modalities like Point-of-Care Testing (POCT), MRI, and contrast-enhanced mammography (CEM). This could broaden the scope and efficacy of early breast cancer detection across different healthcare settings.

Related Links:
Erebouni Medical Center
Thermaiscan Technology

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