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17-year-old girl builds artificial ‘brain’ to detect breast cancer

An artificial “brain” built by a 17-year-old whiz kid from Florida is able to accurately assess tissue samples for signs of breast cancer, providing more confidence to a minimally invasive procedure.

The cloud-based neural network took top prize in this year’s Google Science Fair.

“I taught the computer how to diagnose breast cancer,” Brittany Wenger, the Lakewood Ranch resident, told me today.

“And this is really important because currently the least invasive form of biopsy is actually the least conclusive, so a lot of doctors can’t use them.”

Wenger wanted to create a way for more doctors to use the minimally invasive procedure, called Fine Needle Aspirate, in order to ease the process of having lumps examined.

Breast cancer affects one in eight women worldwide, she noted, including members of her family.

“Early detection is really important,” Wenger said. “And that is what I’m trying to do with my neural network.”

Artificial neural networks are essentially computer programs coded to think like the brain, she explained. Only they can detect patterns that are too complex for mere humans.

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