Greg Smith had no symptoms.
And yet six months ago, the Sunshine Coast man received an early cancer diagnosis, thanks to an algorithm that saved his life.
- A Sunshine Coast policeman is among 20 men to have his prostate cancer caught early, thanks to artificial intelligence
- The technology is combined with a simple blood test to find out what a patient’s risk of the disease is
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men
He is one of 20 Australian prostate cancer survivors in the past three years who likely wouldn’t be here today without artificial intelligence.
In Mr Smith’s case, the policeman’s father, now 82, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 58. So when Mr Smith reached the same age, it was playing on his mind.
“Because he had it at a young age and knowing there is a strong genetic link through families … I’ve been monitoring for years and years,” he said.
“I was keeping an eye out but I didn’t have any symptoms.
Revolutionising prostate cancer tests
Brisbane-based urologist Peter Swindle has specialised in prostate cancer for the past 30 years and has been heavily involved in developing artificial intelligence technology that’s revolutionised the way doctors test for the disease.
Dr Swindle said the technology was combined with a simple blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA), to find out what a patient’s risk of the disease is.
“They’re looking at the patient’s age, the patient’s family history, and the behaviour of the PSA blood tests,” he said.
Over a period of time they can compare one patient with 250,000 — a database of 250,000 men around the world — and more accurately calculate the man’s risk of having prostate cancer at a specific point in time.”
A lifesaving test
For Mr Smith, seeing a television program mentioning free tests offered by artificial intelligence company Maxwell Plus gave him the final prod he needed to get the test.
It eventually led to his diagnosis and robotic prostatectomy (surgery to remove part or all of the prostate gland) last October.
He credits the technology for saving his life.
Had he left the cancer unchecked, Mr Smith said he would probably be two years down the track and in a much worse situation.
While he says men generally “don’t like talking about those sort of things,” he suggested those over the age of 40 should start thinking about getting tested for prostate cancer.
Mr Smith, a father of three, said it was definitely a conversation he would be having with his sons.
The most common cancer affecting men
Prostate cancer is a passionate topic for Dr Swindle, with four of his own family members affected by the disease.
Dr Swindle said the three-year-old test had picked up significant prostate cancers in 20 men, many who didn’t have symptoms.
“We’ve picked them up with significant disease at a lower PSA level than they would have been otherwise have been detected,” he said.
‘We’re not aiming to take the role of the GP away’
Dr Swindle said some of the men had attended their local GP, and thought they were fine.
“But when they’re assessed by our system, they actually weren’t fine … there was significant abnormalities there that our system picked up,” he said.
“We’re not aiming to take the role of the GP away we’re aiming to help to help the GPs.
Sunshine Coast Medical Association president Dr Roger Faint said it wasn’t the first time artificial intelligence had revolutionised early disease detection.
“Certainly, algorithms are making an amazing difference and the incredible complexity of a computer chip now allows us to input so many different variable figures — health figures, if you like — and that allows us to follow people much more closely and develop new treatments and therapies,” he said.
Dr Faint said the use of algorithms had progressed markedly from when he had first began using them as a tool for cardiovascular risk assessments.