Women's History Month

She's Helping Countless People Detect Breast Cancer Early — And She Hasn’t Even Graduated College Yet 

Meet Brittany Wenger.

This Women's History Month, A Plus is featuring a series of "History Makers" — women who are having the kind of impact that we think will make them future Women's History Month honorees.

In honor of National Women's History month, A Plus is recognizing and celebrating women who are working tirelessly to make positive differences in their various industries and, consequently, the world. In the wellness realm, one rising star shines particularly bright this month.


Brittany Wenger will graduate from Duke University this May, but she’s already earned an A+ in our book.

The young woman's been a go-getter since  the seventh grade when she first taught herself to code after taking an elective class on futuristic thinking. "The moment I started researching artificial intelligence and its transcendence into human knowledge, I was inspired," she told Teen Vogue in 2014. "I went out and bought a coding textbook … I remember one of the first projects that I ever worked on was an artificial neural network that taught people how to play soccer." 

A few years later, when she was 15, her cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. "I have a very close-knit family, so seeing the impact that the disease can have on a woman and her family, firsthand, was so real to me," she explained to the publication. "When I learned that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, I knew that I wanted to get involved in making the process better for patients." Fast forward two years, and Wenger discovered a way to apply her original artificial neural network technology to assessing tissue samples for breast cancer.

She entered her project into the 2012 Global Google Science Fair — and exited with the grand prize.

Since then, she's honed her revolutionary artificial intelligence computer program to identify elaborate data patterns and detect breast cancer with 99 percent accuracy. That program became the foundation for an app, Cloud4Cancer, allowing doctors to enter their own data and further cancer research. Wenger explained how the app works on TED.com: "Based on cell morphology, which is how the cells look, the program will look for patterns and try to determine whether a person has cancer or not. For example, multi-layered cells are an indicator that a person may have cancer." 

Because cancer detection is a bit more complicated than simply identifying cell layers, she described her program as "an initial screening mechanism" that nonetheless can diagnose cancerous cells and give doctors probable cause for further testing to determine the specific type. 

With additional data, however, Wenger was able to extend her breast cancer detection app "to work with genetic expression programming and leukemia diagnostics." Applying her technology in that respect, Wenger wasn't just able to detect cancer, but actually identify a specific patient's subtype of leukemia, and then infer how aggressive the cancer might progress. 

In her spare time, she's also given a TED Talk (that garnered more than 34,000 YouTube views), been featured on

Time's "30 Under 30" list, and met former president Barack Obama. 

Oh yeah, and she’s done all that while pursuing a degree in biology to earn her genome sciences and policy certificate.

These days, Wenger can be found conducting research at the Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine. She's also co-president of the Duke Undergraduate Research Society and a Google Made with Code mentor. While she's already set an example for countless young women who want to pursue STEM fields, Wenger's just gotten started. "There have never been so many available resources or opportunities — for women, and for society as a whole — to pursue a career in the field," she told Teen Vogue

If this is what Wenger can do by age 22, there's no limit to what she — or any other young woman —  can accomplish.


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