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Computer program helps doctors diagnose lung cancer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Not all masses are cancer. When a person undergoes a scan to identify a lump or nodule, the radiologist looks at the texture, the borders and the shape to determine if it is malignant or just a benign growth.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center are developing computer-aided diagnosis (CAD) methods to make that assessment easier. A computer program reads the same scans the radiologist views, and the combined judgment of the computer and radiologist helps detect more cancers, the researchers found.

"Our system is designed to help the radiologist. From our experiences in evaluating CAD for breast cancer, using computer aids significantly improves the performance of the radiologist in predicting malignancies of the masses. Radiologists with computers are able to detect more cancers than radiologists by themselves. We expect that CAD for lung cancer can achieve similar results," says Lubomir Hadjiyski, Ph.D., research assistant professor of Radiology at the U-M Medical School. Hadjiyski will present results of the study Sunday, Nov. 28, at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago.

In the study, researchers looked at 41 CT scans that showed nodules in the lungs. Current scans and previous scans were fed through a computer program specially designed by the U-M researchers to evaluate the size, texture, density and change over time of the nodules. Based on that information, the computer determines how likely the nodule is cancerous.

Previous attempts at computer-aided diagnosis have the computer analyze only the current scan. By allowing the computer to read and compare a series of scans, it gets a complete picture and has the same information the radiologist has.

A CAD system is designed to provide a second opinion to radiologists. The computer analyzes the images with computer-vision techniques specially designed for a given type of cancer or disease
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