Many people are already using ChatGPT as more than a novelty. The chatbot can sharpen code, make social media captions quippier or even cook up something new for dinner.
And this October — which is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month — physicians have found a new and important use for the platform: helping them choose the correct screening tests to detect breast cancer and diagnose breast pain.
According to a June 2023 study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR), ChatGPT-4 identified the correct screening method, per current clinical guidelines, 98.4% of the time — a substantial increase in accuracy from ChatGPT-3.5’s 88.9%.
ChatGPT-4 also chose the correct screening method for breast pain 77.7% of the time, as compared to the earlier version’s 58.3%.
How ChatGPT could help physicians focus — and potentially reduce costs
In a post-pandemic world, health care professionals are feeling understandably overworked. According to one 2023 study, about half of clinical professionals are experiencing burnout, and more than a quarter indicated an intent to leave their job.
Thus, accurate artificial intelligence tools stand to perform an important service: They could potentially decrease the workload on physicians and radiologists by automating part of the screening process. As the technology improves and implementation spreads, the overall efficiency of the health care system may improve — feasibly improving patient outcomes in the bargain.
And in saving professionals working hours, automated tools could also potentially reduce overall health care costs — savings which, ideally, would translate to lower medical bills for patients.
Of course, all of these potentialities are predicated on mass adoption of the technology and, critically, its reliability.
How breast cancer patients can reduce medical costs — no AI required
While there’s still no cure for advanced breast cancer, it’s very treatable when caught in its early stages. According to the American Cancer Society, about 99% of women will survive at least five years after the discovery and diagnosis of localized breast cancer (i.e., a lump that hasn’t spread outside the breast).
However, those patients may still pay dearly for the treatment they need — if not with their lives, with their livelihoods. According to one study, the average cost of breast cancer treatment in the very earliest stage topped $60,000, while stage four breast cancer treatments rang in higher than $130,000.
And treatment is only one part of the cost of cancer. Patients may also lose wages if they become too sick to work, and may have more trouble purchasing important financial products like life insurance — which can be prohibitively expensive, or even unavailable entirely, to those with preexisting conditions.
Finding the right insurance coverage is one important step toward keeping your out-of-pocket costs as low as possible. It’s worth shopping around and reading the fine print: If you qualify for Medicare, for example, the annual cost of cancer treatment might be as little as $3,714 or as high as $10,698, depending on your level of coverage.
Prescription medications offer another opportunity for some patients to cut costs. Using generic medicines when they’re available, asking your doctor for medicine samples, comparing pharmacy prices or using online pharmacies and applying for prescription assistance programs are all tactics suggested by breastcancer.org.
Finally, look toward nonprofit organizations and charities for financial assistance beyond medication and treatment, such as paying for short-term housing during treatment taken away from home, caregiver expenses, transportation and food costs. The American Cancer Society keeps an excellent list of resources up to date online.