Artificial Intelligence: The Next Advancement In Cancer Treatment

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Technology as a whole has gone through rapid changes over the past couple of decades, with new breakthroughs being made every year. One of these more recent technological breakthroughs is the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

From predicting our purchasing behaviors through online retailers to asking our smartphones a voice-assisted question, whether we realize it or not, we are interacting with AI systems every day. While these are minor examples of the capabilities of AI, this technology is now being integrated into more important fields, such as healthcare.

With AI-equipped supercomputers leading the way in transformative healthcare practices, the discussion has been opened on what exactly this means for the overall role it will play in assisting healthcare professionals.

A Glimpse At Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence refers to the ability of a computer to utilize predictive and simulated intelligence. By being fed large amounts of labeled data, AI is able to analyze and draw conclusions based on information provided.

While this may sound simple, AI does much more than scan through basic data. AI has the ability to recognize language and visual queues, making AI-enabled systems ultimately function in ways that a human would.

However, these computers are far from human as of now. Many supercomputers are not fully autonomous, and still require human intervention in order to come to a conclusive suggestion.

However, as these computers analyze more data, they are able to learn from past mistakes, which in turn improves their decision-making processes, leading to higher accuracy.

The uses of AI in fields such as finance, law, and health are all now being explored, and the possibilities are seemingly endless.

AI In Healthcare

AI is being explored in the fields of oncology and diagnostics through multiple trials. For patients who are suffering from rare diseases such as late-stage mesothelioma cancer, the immediacy in which the patient is diagnosed is crucial to their overall treatment and life expectancy.

Difficult to diagnose cancers can often leave doctors misdiagnosing a patient a number of times before they provide the correct diagnosis. With AI, healthcare professionals are hoping that by feeding these supercomputers an abundance of medical literature about diseases, the supercomputer will be able to provide doctors with human-level cancer intelligence.

Accurate suggestions in relation to diagnosis, treatment options, and a variety of other recommendations based on the type of disease, the patient’s medical history, and past cases that were similar in nature could change the way we do cancer care.

Pushback On AI

All technological advancements encounter criticism as to how beneficial they actually are. A supercomputer known as IBM Watson was put to the test at hospitals in Giessen Germany, where it has seriously underperformed, leading to the project being canceled before use on a single patient.

According to doctors involved in this test run, Watson was unable to identify a heart attack, torn aorta or angina when presented with chest pain symptoms and rather suggested that a rare disease was causing these problems.

As stated by Stephan Holzinger, CEO of Rhön-Klinikum AG, which owns the university hospital where this test was facilitated, “The company (IBM) hadn’t even fed the guidelines provided by the professional medical associations into the system. I thought to myself: If we continue with this, it will be like investing in a Las Vegas show.”

While this is certainly concerning, especially given the price tag of working with IBM Watson, computers aren’t always going to be correct. It takes time for AI to learn and the more data it is given the smarter it will become in the future.

With advancements being made so quickly, it is assumed that technology built by a resourceful powerhouse such as IBM should function properly with ease, but only time will tell how Watson will stack up in the future.

World Cancer Day

February 4th is the day we recognize those who we have lost and those that continue to fight cancers of all types. It is also an outlet to highlight the great advancements being made each and every day by hardworking people in the health and science fields.

Hopefully, technology such as artificial intelligence will allow for more accurate and timely diagnoses for patients, leading to higher success rates and overall ability to treat cancers immediately.

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Paschal Okafor is NaijaTechGuide Team Lead. The article Artificial Intelligence: The Next Advancement In Cancer Treatment was written by NaijaTechGuide Team. The article was last modified: January 27th, 2019
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