New project aims to make cervical cancer screening easier and less costly

FhP-AICOS (Fraunhofer AICOS) is using its knowledge in image processing and machine learning in healthcare to build a new solution to tackle cervical cancer, by making screening in low-resource areas easier and less costly.

Known for its work in the field ICT applied to health care in low-resource areas, Fraunhofer AICOS is trying to drive changes in healthcare by tackling cervical cancer. The new project, titled CLARE – Computer-Aided Cervical Cancer Screening, together with INESC TEC (Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science). The goal is to create a novel framework that can be used as a Decision Support System (DSS) for the screening of cervical cancer.

The proposed solution will couple colposcopy and LBC diagnosis methods to computer vision and machine-learning approaches, in order to create a DSS system that can be easily integrated in the conventional clinical workflow, proven to be cost-effective, and produces accurate results.

Approximately 88 per cent of cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in low-resource countries, where very few resources are allocated to prevention and treatment, despite there being sufficient scientific evidence to conclude that screening would result in significant reductions in incidence and mortality. In fact, screening tests such as the conventional Pap Smear or Liquid-based Cytology (LBC) have been responsible for a 50% decrease in cervical cancer deaths.

As screening is essential to prevent this disease, technology can be critical to improving screening rates, by making the exam more accessible.

This solution will build on background knowledge of other projects, such as MalariaScope, a mobile-based solution that provides an effective pre-diagnosis of malaria. Researchers will work with FhP-AICOS’ µSmartScope prototype, making it suitable for the  acquisition of smears images, as well as develop a companion mobile app to acquire microscopic images autonomously, and develop an image processing and analysis module to detect malignant cells.

With this project, FhP-AICOS’ researchers hope to contribute to minimising unnecessary incidences and deaths related to cervical cancer by creating an intuitive and useful technology-based solution, capable of facilitating diagnosis, and thus, prevention.

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