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Pigeons Could Spot Breast Cancer

Pigeons are almost as good as humans at diagnosing breast cancer


To diagnose breast cancer, experts must interpret biopsy samples and mammograms which can often be a difficult task, however, the research shows that birds could be a key factor in the development of new, more accurate diagnostic procedures.

Pigeons are known to be able to distinguish between human faces and expressions, letters and even paintings. These birds were taught to recognise signs of benign or malignant tissues on microscopic slides and mammogram scans.

Motivated with food rewards, the birds were trained to peck a blue or yellow report button depending on the type of tissue they were shown. While the birds' accuracy was at 50% on day one, it increased to nearly 85% by days 13, 14 and 15, which is almost to the level of human radiologists.

Professor Richard Levenson, from the University of California, said, "Pigeons' sensitivity to diagnostically salient features in medical images suggest that they can provide reliable feedback on many variables at play in the production, manipulation and viewing of these diagnostically crucial tools."




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