Quantification of breast lesion compositions using low-dose spectral mammography: A feasibility study




The positive predictive power for malignancy can potentially be improved, if the chemical compositions of suspicious breast lesions can be reliably measured in screening mammography. The purpose of this study is to investigate the feasibility of quantifying breast lesion composition, in terms of water and lipid contents, with spectral mammography.


Phantom and tissue samples were imaged with a spectral mammography system based on silicon-strip photon-counting detectors. Dual-energy calibration was performed for material decomposition, using plastic water and adipose-equivalent phantoms as the basis materials. The step wedge calibration phantom consisted of 20 calibration configurations, which ranged from 2 to 8 cm in thickness and from 0% to 100% in plastic water density. A nonlinear rational fitting function was used in dual-energy calibration of the imaging system. Breast lesion phantoms, made from various combinations of plastic water and adipose-equivalent disks, were embedded in a breast mammography phantom with a heterogeneous background pattern. Lesion phantoms with water densities ranging from 0% to 100% were placed at different locations of the heterogeneous background phantom. The water density in the lesion phantoms was measured using dual-energy material decomposition. The thickness and density of the background phantom were varied to test the accuracy of the decomposition technique in different configurations. In addition, an in vitro study was also performed using mixtures of lean and fat bovine tissue of 25%, 50%, and 80% lean weight percentages as the background. Lesions were simulated by using breast lesion phantoms, as well as small bovine tissue samples, composed of carefully weighed lean and fat bovine tissues. The water densities in tissue samples were measured using spectral mammography and compared to measurement using chemical decomposition of the tissue.


The thickness of measured and known water contents was compared for various lesion configurations. There was a good linear correlation between the measured and the known values. The root-mean-square errors in water thickness measurements were 0.3 and 0.2 mm for the plastic phantom and bovine tissue backgrounds, respectively.


The results indicate that spectral mammography can be used to accurately characterize breast lesion composition in terms of their equivalent water and lipid contents.