Pigeons are being used to spot breast cancer in mammograms

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Pigeons Are Being Used To Spot Breast Cancer In Mammograms

Pigeons are proving to be good for more than just picking up your lunch scraps.

Scientists say it's possible that the birds can spot breast cancer in women's mammograms as accurately as human experts.

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A study published in PLOS ONE involved training 16 pigeons to identify malignant and benign tissue in mammogram scans. When the birds pecked a touchscreen button with the corresponding category, they were rewarded with food.

After nine days of training, the birds were able to pick out cancerous scans from benign images more than 80% of the time!

Next, researchers grouped them together for a technique called "flock sourcing" — in which the pigeons essentially "voted" on what the image showed. They produced even greater accuracy of 99% comparable to professionals.

Pigeons are an interesting choice to trust your health with, but according to scientists, they share a very similar visual system to people — and probably better by the looks of it. Figuring out how the pigeons process visual cues could help refine imaging for diagnosis.

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Pigeons are being used to spot breast cancer in mammograms

An Archaeopteryx on a log above a stream.

(Daniel Eskridge/Stocktrek via Getty)

An Archaeopteryx stalks a dragonfly on a rock.

(Stocktrek/Getty Images)

Undated National Academy of Sciences handout of a Reconstruction of the flying dinosaur, Microraptor, showing its "biplane" design.

Primeval time: a Brontornis Burmeisteri (large bird) fighting with a Hadrosaur

(Getty Images)

Elephant Bird (Aepyornis) walking on beach, illustration (Photo by De Agostini Picture Library/De Agostini/Getty Images)

Archaeopteryx dinosaur on white background with drop shadow.

(Leonello Calvetti/Stocktrek via Getty)

LONDON - JANUARY 22: This handout image, showing an artist's interpretation of the winged dinosaur, Microraptor Gui, was published in the Journal Nature on January 22, 2003 in London, England. Microraptor Gui was discovered by the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. Scientist believe the four-winged dinosaur, measuring around one meter (red and black bar at bottom left represents five cm) lived approximately 130-million years ago and would have flown in the same way a flying squirrel does today. (Photo by Journal Nature/Portia Sloan/Getty Images)
circa 1890: A Pterodactyl on the hunt above a sea full of predators. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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