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Software search for breast cancer.

A computer program may one day help radiologists home in on very subtle breast cancers, those easily missed by routine mammograms.

Computer scientist Philip Kegelmeyer developed the software after learning that radiologists who screen mammograms, or X-ray pictures of the breasts, describe their task as nerve-racking, yet tedious. Radiologists may look at 100 routine mammograms to find just one cancer, he says. "They know that their attention can last for only so long:" Kegelmeyer says. "At the same time, it's desperately important that they do a good job."

To give the doctor an edge, Kegelmeyer, who is at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., designed a software program that analyzes digitized X-ray films of the breast. Kegelmeyer says some breast cancers are virtually invisible on the X-ray film. The only clue to their presence is a star-shaped distortion in the breast tissue (circled area). Experienced radiologists can detect these distortions, but fatigue and other factors can cause them to miss the signs of cancer.

Kegelmeyer's software program searches for this trouble spot on the mammogram and then alerts the radiologist.

In a recent test of the method, Kegelmeyer obtained mammograms from 85 women, 36 of whom had confirmed breast cancer. The remaining 49 women had no breast cancer.

Four radiologists read the X-rays without the computer's help, and Kegelmeyer recorded the results. Then he gave the doctors the same X-rays along with the computer's analysis, which highlighted areas that looked like cancer.

With the extra help, the radiologists increased their ability to detect breast cancer by about 10 percent, Kegelmeyer says. Furthermore, the computer program did not increase the risk that the radiologist would mistakenly label a suspicious area as a probable cancer, he says. Such false positives can cause needless anguish, he notes.
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Title Annotation:software program analyzes digitized X-ray films of breast
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 9, 1993
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