How an AI's second opinion delivered a life-saving diagnosis

It's one of those things which can catch a bloke completely unawares - and a few doctors as well.

Danny Hansen, an IT consultant from Torrens, had a family history of prostate cancer so he got his PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels tested every year.

He thought that was a sufficient safeguard and to trust his medical fate to the professionals.

But as it later transpired, it was a clever artificial intelligence program which saved his life.

The first general practitioner scoffed when Mr Hansen requested a PSA test, saying they were unreliable because they generated false positives.

"That was the worst advice possible. Given my family history I should have been getting PSA tests twice a year," Mr Hansen said.

"Every bloke has a one-in-six chance of getting prostate cancer. If you've got a family history, it doubles. It's a one-in-three chance. My brother, well it turns out he's a got 90 per cent chance.

An artificial intelligence triggered the alarm bells for Danny Hansen. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

An artificial intelligence triggered the alarm bells for Danny Hansen. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

"I went to see a second GP and I had a PSA reading of 3.8 which is a bit high.

"I could see him [the GP] looking at the results and my previous history and wondering if I should be admitted to hospital for a biopsy.

"You can't blame GPs for being a bit reluctant, looking at a chart, to send you [for a biopsy] because it's an invasive surgery.

"You might go in for surgery and it might come back clear in which case you've done surgery and probably a couple of thousand dollars for no reason."

Having an IT background, he began online research and was intrigued by a new program called Maxwell Plus, then decided to investigate further.

What he found was an unheralded online artificial intelligence (AI) program which cross-referenced all his medical data and family history against a massive database of 250,000 other men.

"I had no symptoms; I was 48, fit and healthy, rode my bike everywhere. I felt great," he said.

"But I knew because of dad's prostate history that I should really pay more attention to this and I signed up for this program, which to me was sort of like getting a medical opinion without having to go to another doctor."

Danny Hansen owes his life to an AI's medical diagnosis. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Danny Hansen owes his life to an AI's medical diagnosis. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Mr Hansen submitted all the forms, paid his $120 fee and a few weeks later, got a call from a Maxwell Plus doctor he'd never met.

"Out of the blue a doctor who works for this organisation called and said their analysis found I had to address this issue immediately," he said.

After another test and a biopsy later, the diagnosis was confirmed. That was when he experienced what he described as his "oh shit" moment.

He went into Canberra Hospital, had the surgery and now, almost a month later, has fully recovered.

Maxwell Plus has found its use of AI was diagnosing men five years younger than the average age of prostate cancer diagnosis, while at the same time reducing unnecessary biopsies by more than 50 per cent.

"There are so many men out there who never ask the question or bother taking the test," he said.

"And this is the thing; by the time you feel any symptoms, that's when it's too late."

This story How an AI's second opinion delivered a life-saving diagnosis first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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