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AI model could predict breast cancer risk without racial bias, study finds

The deep learning model has been shown to outperform traditional risk models in predicting a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer

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A new AI model developed using mammogram image biomarkers could accurately predict both invasive and non-invasive forms of breast cancer without racial bias, new research has shown.

The findings, presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), have suggested the model showed no bias across multiple races.

Traditional breast cancer risk assessment models use information obtained from patient questionnaires, such as medical and reproductive history, to calculate a patient’s future risk of developing breast cancer.

Data shows old models are more likely to demonstrate poor performance across different patient races, most likely due to the data used to develop the model.

“In the domain of precision medicine, risk-based screening has been elusive because we have not been able to accurately evaluate a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer,” said study lead author Leslie R. Lamb, a breast radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston.

“Even the best existing traditional risk models do not perform well on the individual level.

“Traditional models likely have racial biases due to the populations on which they were developed. Several of the commonly used models were developed on predominantly European Caucasian populations.”

According to the American Cancer Society, Black women demonstrate the lowest five-year relative survival rate for breast cancer among all racial and ethnic groups. This translates to a six per cent to eight per cent disparity in five-year survival rates between Black and white women across all breast cancer types.

The new deep learning AI risk assessment model developed using mammographic images has been shown to outperform traditional risk assessment models in future breast cancer development while also mitigating the racial biases seen in traditional models.

In the first study of its kind, Dr Lamb and colleagues assessed the performance of the image-based deep learning risk assessment model in predicting both future invasive breast cancer and non-invasive breast cancer across multiple races.

The study included 129,340 routine screening mammograms performed in 71,479 women between 2009 to 2018 with five-year follow-up data. Patient demographics were obtained from electronic medical records and instances of cancer were identified from the regional tumour registry.

The racial makeup of the study group included white, Black, Asian, self-reported and other races. The mean age of the women was 59 years old.

The deep learning model was shown to outperform traditional risk models in predicting a woman’s risk of developing early-stage, non-invasive breast cancer, also known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), as well as invasive breast cancer, known as invasive carcinoma.

“The model is able to translate the full diversity of subtle imaging biomarkers in the mammogram, beyond what the naked eye can see, that can predict a woman’s future risk of both DCIS and invasive breast cancer,” explained Lamb.

“The deep learning image-only risk model can provide increased access to more accurate, equitable and less costly risk assessment.”

Constance D. Lehman, senior author and breast radiologist at MGH, said: “This is a particularly exciting domain for AI, as it demonstrates the opportunity to apply ‘AI for good’—to reduce well-known racial disparities in risk assessment.

“We are now poised to translate these findings into improved clinical care for our patients.”

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Start-up launches London Underground campaign to break down period stigma

The two-week campaign seeks to challenge societal taboos surrounding menstrual health

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The Irish women’s health start-up Riley has launched an ad campaign on the London Underground to “take the fear out of periods”.

Riley, an eco-friendly period product subscription service, aims to take action against period poverty and democratise access to period products.

The company seeks to encourage the introduction of menstrual health policies and foster a workplace where discussions around periods are normalised.

Its two-week London Underground campaign, which coincides with the opening of its first office in London, is hoped to help destigmatise periods and normalise conversations around menstrual health.

“The idea behind this campaign comes from the fact that free period care in the office is often seen as an employee perk or a ‘nice to have’, when it should actually be an essential offering in every office,” Meaghan Droney, eCommerce manager at Riley, told Femtech World.

“Our aim with this campaign is to flip those current mindsets and get people to change their attitudes towards period care in the workplace.

“With 79 per cent of menstruators feeling unsupported in relation to their periods at work, this oversight is clearly fundamentally unfair and it’s time for change.

“We’re encouraging any and all businesses to get in touch with us so we can support them in introducing menstrual policies and free period care in their workplace to empower all employees, no matter their gender, to thrive and feel valued at work.”

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that only 12 per cent of UK companies provide support for menstruation and menstrual health, despite 85 per cent of women experiencing stress or anxiety when managing their period at work.

Data suggests that half of the women who take absence because of their menstrual cycle feel unable to tell their manager, underscoring the deep-rooted stigma around periods.

Fiona Parfrey, co-founder of Riley, said: “Access to safe and high-quality sustainable period care products not only demonstrates a commitment to employee welfare but also fosters a culture of empathy, equality, and respect, ultimately contributing to a more engaged and empowered workforce.

“Menstrual policies and free period care are a fundamental necessity for every individual in the workplace. It’s about ensuring that employees have the resources they need to maintain their wellbeing and productivity without interruption.”

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Singapore-based fertility centre sets up grant for couples struggling to conceive

This grant aims to support eligible Singaporean couples facing financial and family planning challenges

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A Singapore-based fertility centre is to set up a grant to support couples struggling to conceive.

Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore (VFCS) announced that it would set up a grant to support aspiring parents on their IVF journey.

The initial grant is set for at $50,000 SGD and, depending on the take-up rate over the next 12 fiscal months, VFCS plans to increase the pool to benefit more couples in the subsequent years.

The grant will cover the main costs associated with IVF treatments and procedures, including embryo retrieval and transfer, laboratory services and embryo prep. It will also be applicable to fresh and frozen egg transfers.

As grant recipients, their samples will similarly be given a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, a service VFCS provides for all its patients. It locks the patient’s identity with the respective sample. The RFID identifies gametes—eggs, sperms, or embryos—at every stage of the IVF treatment.

According to VFCS, the grant will also include access to counselling services and wellness resources.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the emotional toll and occasional frustration that infertility can take on individuals and couples, especially for some who are still young and healthy,” said Dr Roland Chieng, medical director at VFCS.

“The common deterrent of going for fertility treatment is always associated with the cost, more so in a private care setting where their only source of funds is through Medisave.

“By alleviating their financial concerns, we hope ReadyBaby Fertility Grant empowers patients to approach their IVF journey, focusing on their clinical needs and working towards a healthy pregnancy and less on financials.

“With access to the necessary treatments and support, patients can embark on their path to parenthood with renewed confidence, knowing they have the clinical resources and guidance they need to navigate this journey,” he added.

Tim Kwan, VFCS’s managing director, said: “We believe every couple deserves the opportunity to experience the profound joy of parenthood.

“With the ReadyBaby Fertility Grant, we aim to support aspiring couples on their IVF journey and help them bring new life into the world.”

To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be married Singaporean couples diagnosed with medical infertility by a fertility specialist and first-time parents who have not tried IVF before.

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Canadian insurer launches partnership to support women’s health

Members of the Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross will have access to a dedicated women’s health platform

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Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving

The Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross (MBC) has partnered with the virtual health platform sanoLiving to support women on their menopause journey.

Currently, more than 10 million Canadian women are navigating menopause, often with little support and misinformation about treatments.

With sanoMidLife, sanoLiving’s online menopause platform, Medavie Blue Cross members will have access to a national women’s health platform tailored to provide care and services for women going through the menopause.

The service includes personalised assessments, access to clinicians, treatments, educational content, peer support and AI assistance.

“Many women lack support for their menopause transition due to the misunderstandings of what is ‘normal’ and misinformation about treatments,” said Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving.

“Women are seeking solutions that allow them to thrive during midlife. We are thrilled about our alliance with Medavie Blue Cross, and our shared commitment to providing access to care that empowers women.”

Anita Swamy, senior vice president operations at Medavie Blue Cross, added: “We’ve heard first-hand from our members about the need for more menopause-related services.

“Our partnership with sanoLiving creates an innovative way to increase access to care for our members as we continue to focus on the support women need to navigate their benefits and provide forward-thinking options to support their health.”

Studies report one in 10 women exit the workforce due to unmanaged symptoms. Early onset of menopause and symptoms before age 45 can elevate the risk of health issues like heart disease, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis.

With this new service, Medavie Blue Cross and sanoLiving are aiming to open up the conversation around menopause, reduce stigma and work towards giving women the access to the care they need.

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