The robots are coming! Many of you have heard about the use of robotic devices to assist with all sorts of surgeries. These machines are not really robots since they cannot work independently, i.e. without someone sitting at the controls. I think we are still far from an independent robot performing any surgical procedure. However, the same cannot be said for artificial intelligence that may help improve our ability to detect lung cancer.
It is reported that Google has created an artificial intelligence that is able to detect lung cancers by reviewing 3D CT scans of patients. Of course, this is not a robot, but a computer program. However, the computer has at least one advantage over humans in that it can process the entire scan all at once, while trained radiologists need to review each individual slice of the scan to provide an interpretation.
If this program is found to have good results in the detection of lung cancer over the standard method, it could be extremely impactful. Lung cancer kills more Americans than any other type of cancer and accounts for 25% of all cancer deaths annually. Lung cancer actually kills more women each year than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined!
The use of artificial intelligence in medicine is not new, but like many technologies will continue to advance and provide additional help to all of our patients. These advances will, no doubt, change the way we as physicians work and provide care. Here comes the future.