Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the early detection of breast cancer: a scoping review to assess AI's potential in breast screening practice

Expert Rev Med Devices. 2019 May;16(5):351-362. doi: 10.1080/17434440.2019.1610387. Epub 2019 May 3.


Introduction: Various factors are driving interest in the application of artificial intelligence (AI) for breast cancer (BC) detection, but it is unclear whether the evidence warrants large-scale use in population-based screening.

Areas covered: We performed a scoping review, a structured evidence synthesis describing a broad research field, to summarize knowledge on AI evaluated for BC detection and to assess AI's readiness for adoption in BC screening. Studies were predominantly small retrospective studies based on highly selected image datasets that contained a high proportion of cancers (median BC proportion in datasets 26.5%), and used heterogeneous techniques to develop AI models; the range of estimated AUC (area under ROC curve) for AI models was 69.2-97.8% (median AUC 88.2%). We identified various methodologic limitations including use of non-representative imaging data for model training, limited validation in external datasets, potential bias in training data, and few comparative data for AI versus radiologists' interpretation of mammography screening.

Expert opinion: Although contemporary AI models have reported generally good accuracy for BC detection, methodological concerns, and evidence gaps exist that limit translation into clinical BC screening settings. These should be addressed in parallel to advancing AI techniques to render AI transferable to large-scale population-based screening.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence; breast cancer; data bias; mammography; population screening.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Breast / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • Research