Breast density analysis for whole breast ultrasound images

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Abstract

Breast density has been established as an independent risk factor associated with the development of breast cancer. The terms mammographic density and breast density are often used interchangeably, since most breast density studies are performed with projection mammography. It is known that increase in mammographic density is associated with an increased cancer risk. A sensitive method that allows for the measurement of small changes in breast density may provide useful information for risk management. Despite the efforts to develop quantitative breast density measurements from projection mammograms, the measurements show large variability as a result of projection imaging, differing body position, differing levels of compression, and variation of the x-ray beam characteristics. This study used two separate computer-aided methods, threshold-based and proportion-based evaluations, to analyze breast density on whole breast ultrasound (US) imaging and to compare with the grading results of three radiologists using projection mammography. Thirty-two female subjects with 252 images per case were included in this study. Whole breast US images were obtained from an Aloka SSD-5500 ultrasound machine with an ASU-1004 transducer (Aloka, Japan). Before analyzing breast density, an adaptive speckle reduction filter was used for removing speckle noise, and a robust thresholding algorithm was used to divide breast tissue into fatty or fibroglandular classifications. Then, the proposed approaches were applied for analysis. In the threshold-based method, a statistical model was employed to determine whether each pixel in the breast region belonged to fibroglandular or fatty tissue. The proportion-based method was based on three-dimensional information to calculate the volumetric proportion of fibroglandular tissue to the total breast tissue. The experimental cases were graded by the proposed analysis methods and compared with the ground standard density classification assigned by a majority voting of three experienced breast radiologists. For the threshold-based method, 28 of 32 US test cases and for the proportion-based density classifier, 27 of 32 US test cases were found to be in agreement with the radiologist “ground standard” mammographic interpretations, resulting in overall accuracies of 87.5% and 84.4%, respectively. Moreover, the concordance values of the proposed methods were between 0.0938 and 0.1563, which were less than the average interobserver concordance of 0.3958. The experiment result showed that the proposed methods could be a reference opinion and offer concordant and reliable quantification of breast density for the radiologist.

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