As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women are to be asked for their opinions on the future of breast screening in NHS Grampian and Scotland.

With advances in technology, medical staff are looking to the future and the possible use of artificial intelligence in the process.

Clinical Director of North East Breast Screening & iCAIRD exemplar lead Dr Gerald Lip said: “In the future, an artificial intelligence (AI) computer program could examine a person’s mammogram – a X-ray image of the breast.

We want to see how our clients would like to see this technology used and are asking for their opinions on several scenarios as part of our survey.

At the moment two specialists examine the images and another senior specialist can then take a look at the image as well, if they disagree with each other.”

Dr Lip added: “One of the benefits of involving AI initially is it could replace one or both of the specialists at that first screening image examination stage. This would in turn free-up specialists which would allow us to increase capacity – for both patient appointments clinics and across the system, which would ultimately benefit all women, speed up the whole process and cut waiting times.”

Dr Lip said there were a few ways AI could operate within the department in future: It could replace one of the specialists at the initial stage. If either the specialist or AI flags the image is not quite right or identifies it as abnormal, the patient would be invited back to an appointment with a specialist. If the 2nd specialist and AI disagreed with each other, an independent specialist would then examine the image.

The end objective is for AI to ultimately lead to faster screening and results for clients.

The survey has started now & is available to participants in the Grampian Breast Screening Centre and based on response may be opened further online. Friends of Anchor are kindly supporting the administration of the survey.

Dr Lip said the survey would ask for basic personal information, such as age, and people’s level of knowledge about AI, in an effort to understand how opinions vary in the screening population.