Artificial intelligence (AI) has become really popular since ChatGPT was launched, but scientists have been thinking about how it can help with cancer care for a long time.
Some hospitals around the world are already using AI, but experts say patients don’t need to worry about it replacing doctors. The big opportunity is using AI to look at the information that doctors and nurses already collect from patients. David Speakman, a doctor at Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, says AI is like a tsunami, and in about three years, it might help monitor patients’ vital signs like blood pressure and oxygen levels to predict problems before they even show up.
“It can do this much faster than humans,” Dr. Speakman said. “The biggest thing AI can do in medicine soon is this because it will help a lot of patients quickly.” There are tests happening to see if AI can figure out what type of cancer a patient has and where it might spread, based on a biopsy, but that’s going to take some time.
The ultimate goal is to know if certain treatments will work. Starting in 2024, a doctor named Helen Frazer will lead a test using AI to look at mammograms. She wants to make the experience less stressful for women.
“We bring many women back for more tests every year, thinking they might have cancer when they don’t,” Dr. Frazer explained. “This causes them extra stress and sometimes even needle tests.” Looking at these scans is complicated. At least two doctors have to check each one, which takes about two weeks.
We won’t know the results of the test for about five years, but if it works, AI might be able to help with the screening process. “If we can use AI to do the repetitive tasks, it will free up more time for doctors to spend with patients and read more complex mammograms,” Dr. Frazer said. The next step is to predict if a patient might develop cancer between regular screenings. “If we can personalize the screening to catch cancer earlier before it spreads, we can get closer to curing breast cancer,” she said.
Karin Verspoor, a computer expert from RMIT University, says many people think AI is like robots, but it’s more like simulating intelligence. The best use of AI is finding patterns in big sets of data. She thinks that within ten years, AI devices will be available in remote places to monitor and take samples from patients. This will make healthcare more accessible and reduce the need for patients to travel long distances. But Dr. Speakman wants to make sure patients know that AI will only be used after careful testing, and it can’t replace the role of a doctor. Doctors are also very determined to make breakthroughs in medicine, which AI can’t replicate.
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