Investing in artificial intelligence to save lives

A Victorian Medical Acceleration Fund grant will enable BreastScreen Victoria to develop capabilities and conduct research on using artificial intelligence (AI) to read breast screens (mammograms).

The $500,000 research grant, matched dollar for dollar from BreastScreen Victoria, is expected to enhance breast cancer screening's accuracy, speed of results, and efficiency.

Rita Butera, CEO of BreastScreen Victoria, said the significant research investment aims to improve breast cancer diagnosis and reduce the time clients wait to receive their results.

“BreastScreen Victoria thanks the Victorian Government for funding this critical research which will assist us to improve cancer detection, client outcomes and cost effectiveness,” Ms Butera said.

In Victorian women, breast cancer accounts for approximately 30% of all cancers. A breast cancer diagnosis occurs in one out of seven women in their lifetime.

However, there are challenges with mammogram interpretation and the length of time it takes for clients to get their results.

Recent studies have demonstrated the potential of AI to detect breast cancer on mammographic images with a similar accuracy to radiologists and in a faster time.

According to Dr Helen Frazer, State Clinical Director at BreastScreen Victoria and lead researcher for the Artificial Intelligence project: AI in BreastScreen Victoria Mammogram Reading: Saving more lives and reducing costs, "The purpose of this project is to improve the accuracy of reading mammographic images, resulting in more lives saved, a reduction in public screening and health service costs, and an overall improvement in breast health for Victorians.”

The research project aims to evaluate AI tools, and their impact on accuracy, costs, and the experience of clients.

“At the end of this project, we will also have enhanced our local capabilities to integrate AI with our services, and advanced our understanding of the legal, ethical and consumer concerns regarding the use of AI in breast cancer screening. This knowledge is essential to implement AI-reading and to deliver necessary policy changes,” Dr Frazer said.

BreastScreen Victoria provides free breast screens as part of the national BreastScreen Australia program. Breast screening is known to be effective in reducing breast cancer deaths and the impact of treatment among women in the 50 to 74 age group. The program screens approximately 290,000 Victorians annually.

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Media contact: Lorena Gibson on 0456 730 878 or