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Artificial intelligence 'could save thousands of lives each year' by spotting cancers earlier

Technology will be used to comb records and spot warning signs earlier. Credit: PA

Artificial intelligence will be used to spot patients showing signs of cancer earlier in a move that could save thousands of lives each year.

"Smart technology" will cross-reference individual patients' medical records, habits, and genetic data with national databases to help identify those with the disease, the Prime Minister will announce today.

The move is expected to give at least 50,000 people each year an earlier diagnosis for prostate, ovarian, lung or bowel cancer.

It could prevent some 22,000 cancer deaths every year by 2033.

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Mrs May will say "late diagnosis of otherwise treatable illnesses is one of the biggest causes of avoidable deaths" as she announces the major health technology plans.

Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive officer of Cancer Research, said that if the changes cut late diagnosis by half in the next 15 years, 22,000 fewer people with lung, bowel, prostate and ovarian cancers would die within five years of their diagnosis.

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Theresa May will say technology can transform healthcare. Credit: PA

Artificial intelligence "opens up a whole new field of medical research and gives us a new weapon in our armoury in the fight against disease", Mrs May will say in a speech today in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

All of the data and technological advances needed to help cut cancer deaths are available but a system has not yet been set up to bring everything together.

Around £1.4 billion has already been invested in research and development for the “grand challenges” programme the targets are being set under.

Mrs May will also use the speech to announce another target to ensure that five more years of people’s lives will be healthy, independent and active by 2035.

Older workers who want to remain in their jobs will be given support to make that happen under the plan and there will be improvements in public health and social care.

The planned new system has been welcomed by cancer charities. Credit: PA

Mrs May will say that embracing medical technology will not only save lives but also boost the economy by creating high-skill jobs in AI-healthcare.

She will add: “Our challenge as a nation, and my determination as Prime Minister, is not just to lead the world in the fourth industrial revolution – but to ensure that every part of our country powers that success.”

“The Government’s mission to revolutionise healthcare using the power of artificial intelligence is pioneering. Advances in detection technologies depend on the intelligent use of data and have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives every year.

“We need to ensure we have the right infrastructure, embedded in our health system, to make this possible.”

Other chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes and dementia will also be targeted.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “There is promising evidence that using artificial intelligence to analyse MRI scans could spot early signs of heart disease which may be missed by current techniques. This could lead to a quicker diagnosis with more personalised treatment that could ultimately save lives.”