Using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, Chinese researchers have developed a rapid and accurate screening model to diagnose cervical cancer, a common and fatal disease in women.
Cervical cancer, caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), is the fourth most frequent cancer in women worldwide, with an estimated 570,000 new cases reported and 311,000 deaths from the disease in 2018, according to the World Health Organization.
In China, the incidence and death rates of cervical cancer are also high, with 106,000 new cases reported and about 48,000 deaths last year.
The current method to detect abnormal cervical cells is cytology-based screening, known as the Pap test. It is often done during a pelvic examination which allows the health care professional to have a clear view of the cervix and upper vagina by a speculum and take a sample of cervical cells.
Based on more than 200,000 pathological images selected from over 43.5 million cervical screening samples, experts from KingMed Diagnostics, a Guangzhou-based medical diagnostic testing company, along with computer engineers from Huawei Cloud, a subsidiary of the Chinese tech giant Huawei, over one year developed an AI-assisted screening model, which can diagnose the disease with an accuracy of over 99 percent, while costing only one-tenth of the examination time performed by pathologists.
"Pathologists spend an average of six minutes in examining a cervical screening sample under a microscope, while the AI model just needs 36 seconds per case," said Luo Pifu, director of the company's pathological department and lead researcher of the program.
According to Li Yinghua, chief information officer of KingMed Diagnostics, the company's AI-assisted screening will help offset the shortage of well-trained pathologists, as well as expand the scope of early examination of cervical cancer in China.
In 2018, KingMed and Huawei agreed to cooperate in building an AI model for cervical cancer screening.
To train, validate and test the AI, developers fed it with 32,000 samples collected by the company from six provinces in the past 12 years.
The AI was built on the basis of ModelArts, an AI development platform developed by Huawei Cloud which turned the diagnostic experiences accumulated by experts into algorithms and models.
The AI can automatically complete the diagnosis procedure, while the pathologists only need to review and confirm the positive cases, said Tu Dandan, a senior technical director of the Huawei Cloud.
The two companies will continue cooperation to explore more possible applications of the AI technologies in the field of pathology, such as breast, digestive system, kidney and blood diseases.