Machine Learning Provides Early Lymphedema Detection in Breast Cancer Survivors, Study Reports

Machine Learning Provides Early Lymphedema Detection in Breast Cancer Survivors, Study Reports
Lymphedema, a common complication of breast cancer treatment, can be accurately detected with a machine learning approach that uses real-time symptom reports, according to researchers. Their study, “Machine learning for detection of lymphedema among breast cancer survivors,” appeared in the journal mHealth. Lymphedema is a collection of fluid that causes swelling mostly in the arms or legs, and normally results from the removal of lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. This common and chronic complication may happen right after surgery or months or even decades later. Research indicates that over 41 percent of breast cancer patients had lymphedema in the arms within 10 years of surgery. Symptoms of lymphedema may include swelling in the arm, a feeling of heaviness or tightness, reduced range of motion, aching, recurrent infections, and skin fibrosis (or scarring). Although early intervention is able to ease symptoms, timely detection remains challenging. "Clinicians often detect or diagnose lymphedema based on their observation of swelling. However, by the time swelling can be observed or measured, lymphedema has typically occurred for some time, which may lead to poor clinical outcomes," Mei R Fu, PhD, the study's lead author, said in a press release. Computer science, such as machine learning, has emerged as a valuable tool to detect various medical conditions with greater accuracy over other approaches. Machine learning involves the creation of algorithms — a list of rules computers follow to solve problems — and, in the case of diseases, enables clinical decisions through the real-time reporting of symptoms. The research team evaluated the accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of machine learning using real-time symptom reports
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