U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

02/04/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/04/2023 15:03

Birmingham VA harnesses AI tech to fight colon cancer

To reduce Veterans' risk of colon cancer by screening and identifying precancerous polyps, Birmingham VA recently implemented the GI Genius Intelligent Endoscopy Module, a computer-aided detection system powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

Birmingham VA performs over 3,000 colonoscopies annually and this technology is available in all procedure rooms.

Dr. James Callaway, chief of Gastroenterology/Hepatology, stated that Birmingham VA is one of a small number of facilities in Alabama currently using the technology.

"Currently in Alabama, GI Genius is also being used at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Kirklin Clinic, the University of South Alabama in Mobile and the Dothan Surgery Center," Callaway said. "Studies have shown that AI improves the detection rate of abnormalities and polyps during a colonoscopy procedure."

A colonoscopy is a preventative measure for the early detection of colorectal cancer and is essential for re-sectioning polyps and other precancerous lesions.

"Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States and accounted for over 52,000 deaths in 2022," Callaway said.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in April 2022, GI Genius is the first AI device to assist medical providers in locating polyps that develop in various shapes and sizes.

How GI Genius works

Artificial intelligence leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mine.

GI Genius uses AI to process images and detect the presence of possible precancerous lesions. The images are processed using advanced algorithms to identify and mark polyp irregularities in real time, even ones that can go undetected by the human eye.

Identifying these small lesions increases the precancerous detection rate, significantly reducing the risk of the Veteran developing colon cancer.

Who should receive a colonoscopy?

Callaway recommends colonoscopies starting at age 45 for both men and women. Earlier screening is recommended in patients with a family history of colon cancer.

"In most cases, colonoscopies are recommended every 10 years after your initial screening. Also, consult your primary care doctor about your need for screening," he added.

Birmingham VA is currently using GI Genuis during all screening colonoscopies.

Not a substitute for high-quality health care

Although the module enhances the colonoscopy procedure, it does not substitute for the quality of health care delivered by the VA physician or change the patient's required preparation for the procedure.

GI Nurse Manager Dana Smith said GI Genuis serves as a "second set of eyes" for the medical staff. "GI Genius complements the quality of care we currently give in our GI department. It improves our early detection capabilities to prevent the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S," Smith added.

Birmingham VA's mission is to provide excellent care to America's Veterans. Its vision is to set the standard for patient safety and reliability, advance medical research and serve as Veterans' health system of choice in Northern and Central Alabama.

"Our implementation of GI Genius demonstrates how VA takes advantage of the latest technologies in health care. This innovation is essential to our Veterans' wholeness. We are willing to invest in the knowledge, equipment and technology needed to promote their health and wellness," Smith said.