NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A Hampton Roads health system is using artificial intelligence to assist radiologists in mammogram screenings.

Riverside Health System announced their partnership with Transpara® Breast Care Tuesday. According to a news release from the health system, the artificial intelligence system serves as a “second set of eyes for providers to identify patterns of cancerous breast tissue and aims to detect cancer early, when it may be easier to treat.”

“[The artificial intelligence] basically looks for the shapes and features associated with cancer, and it can find it very small, sometimes even smaller potentially than we [radiologists] can,” said Dr. Benjamin Pettus, who gave News 3 anchor and investigative reporter Jessica Larche an in-depth look at the technology ahead of the health system’s announcement.

He continued, “We’re finding more and more people when it’s basically a curable situation.”

Dr. Pettus said the technology— which flags suspicious areas in mammograms as low, intermediate or elevated risk of breast cancer— is a computer algorithm trained on over a million mammogram screenings. He said radiologists are still tasked with making the final decision on a cancer diagnosis.

Watch Jessica’s report about a local woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer after years of mammograms:

Virginia Beach woman diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant after years of voicing concerns

Riverside Health System’s announcementjoins a list of other health systems and hospitals using artificial intelligence to aid radiologists in mammogram screenings. AsLarche revealed in a report earlier this year, traditional screening mammograms by a radiologist alone can miss about one in eight breast cancers. Research shows screening mammograms are more likely to miss cancer in women with dense breast tissue.

“Having that secondary safety measure of another set of eyes looking over [mammograms] reduces the chance for any human error or any fatigue,” said Dr. Pettus. “It definitely is nice for us to have that secondary evaluation occurring automatically for everybody.”

According to Riverside Health System, when patients receive their annual mammograms, the scan is fed through the artificial intelligence portal to help the radiologist analyze it. Dr. Pettus said this comes at no additional charge to the patient.


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Larche reached out to other regional health systems. A Sentara representative said, “while Sentara is working to establish A.I. in the field of radiology, it is currently not in practice.”

News 3 awaiting comment from Bon Secours.

Coming up Monday, Oct. 2, Jessica Larche is sharing an in-depth look at the new technology, the lives it’s most likely to save and the word of caution about the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare.

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