Early results show that the hospital has increased its slide assessment capacity by about 25%
"Looking for abnormal cells is like trying to find a needle in a haystack because in some cases there are only around 50 abnormal cervical cells in a sample that may contain 15,000 normal cells." Allan Wilson, consultant biomedical scientist, NHS Lanarkshire
A hospital in Scotland has become the first in the UK to pilot artificial intelligence (AI) technology to improve early diagnosis of cervical cancer.
University Hospital Monklands, North Lanarkshire, is using digital cytology software called the Genius Digital Diagnostics System. The software, from Hologic, creates digital images of cervical smear slides from samples that have tested positive for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The AI algorithm reviews the slides and provides the screener with an image gallery of the most diagnostically relevant cells. Because there are fewer cells to analyse, medical experts are able to identify and diagnose abnormalities more quickly and accurately.
Early results are encouraging. The hospital has increased its capacity by about 25% in slide assessment and improved the turnaround times for analysing the slides.
Allan Wilson, the consultant biomedical scientist at NHS Lanarkshire who is leading the pilot, said: “Looking for abnormal cells is like trying to find a needle in a haystack because in some cases there are only around 50 abnormal cervical cells in a sample that may contain 15,000 normal cells. This pilot with Hologic has shown how digital cytology can revolutionise our analysis process in our cervical screening programme.”
Wilson also said that the shorter turnaround times for analysing the slides allowed screeners to “dedicate more time to training on the latest technologies and dealing with difficult-to-diagnose cases.”
Not only is North Monklands the first hospital in the UK to use the technology, it is one of the first in the world. Wilson added: “We are now undertaking a retrospective study, using the digital cytology system to test its performance against previous known results. This will then provide the clinical data to make a recommendation on the use of digital cytology in the cervical screening programme in Scotland. Through AI and digital diagnostics, we have the potential to improve outcomes for women not only in Scotland, but around the world.”
Tim Simpson, general manager for Hologic UK & Ireland, said: “Digital cytology has a key role to play in ensuring pre-cancerous cells are picked up early and treated so fewer women go on to develop cervical cancer. Our goal is to help create a world where no woman dies from cervical cancer.”