Microsoft uses data analytics to detect early stages of pancreatic cancer

Microsoft is all set to use data analytics on its user’s online activity to detect early stages of cancer. Revealing this innovation through a white paper, the researchers demonstrated that by analyzing web query logs they were able to identify internet users who had pancreatic cancer even before they’d been diagnosed.

It’s already a fact that big data analytics is being used to improve healthcare. Now, Microsoft has come up with the latest to provide early warning signs for pancreatic cancer. The software giant has used proprietary logs of 9.2 million web queries on its own Bing search engine and focused exclusively on English Speaking people in US from October 2013 to May 2015. They tracked the characteristics of user search and click activities to capture intentions, which provided data to construct a statistical model.

The study team, made up of Microsoft researchers DR Eric Horvitz and DR Ryen White and Columbia University graduate student John Paparrizos said they anonymized the data, but gave each search an identifier linked to the web browser. That enabled the extraction of search log histories.

First the team identified searchers based on their special queries such as “why did I get cancer in pancreas” and “I was told I have pancreatic cancer, what to expect”.

The researchers were also able to use special Bing created filters to weed out queries from users when fewer than 20% were health related, assuming that the searches were being performed by healthcare professionals. That left 7.2 million web queries to examine.

The team then gave a cooling period of few months and then went back to the search queries made by initial users to examine patterns of symptoms as they were expressed by web searchers.

The results of analyzing web queries pointed to early cancer detection- as much has 5-6 months before a physician’s diagnosis.

FYI, Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases hitting the human kind. It is hard to detect in early stages and symptoms appear only when the patient has reached stage 3 of cancer.

Our StorageServers blog comment- Agree that early detection of cancer paves way for better treatment and sometimes helps in curing the disease with right medicines taken at right time. But in the case of pancreatic cancer, there is no medicine to treat that disease and cure it. Once pancreatic cancer patient reaches stage 2, it is hard to treat them for permanent cure. The only thing is that their treatment can prolong their living life by 6 months or sometimes to 18 months.

So, though Microsoft has achieved success in finding a tool to diagnose pancreatic cancer, it is saddening fact that this entire web search based data analytics cannot lead to a permanent cure.

But we accept that something is better than nothing!


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