Determination of mammographic breast density using a deep convolutional neural network.

Authors: Ciritsis A, Rossi C, Vittoria De Martini I, Eberhard M, Marcon M, Becker AS, Berger N, Boss A


High breast density is a risk factor for breast cancer. The aim of this study was to develop a deep convolutional neural network (dCNN) for the automatic classification of breast density based on the mammographic appearance of the tissue according to the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (ACR BI-RADS) Atlas.

In this study, 20,578 mammography single views from 5221 different patients (58.3 ± 11.5 years) were downloaded from the picture archiving and communications system of our institution and automatically sorted according to the ACR density (a-d) provided by the corresponding radiological reports. A dCNN with 11 convolutional layers and 3 fully connected layers was trained and validated on an augmented dataset. The model was finally tested on two different datasets against: i) the radiological reports and ii) the consensus decision of two human readers. None of the test datasets was part of the dataset used for the training and validation of the algorithm.

The optimal number of epochs was 91 for medio-lateral oblique (MLO) projections and 94 for cranio-caudal projections (CC), respectively. Accuracy for MLO projections obtained on the validation dataset was 90.9% (CC: 90.1%). Tested on the first test dataset of mammographies (850 MLO and 880 CC), the algorithm showed an accordance with the corresponding radiological reports of 71.7% for MLO and of 71.0% for CC. The agreement with the radiological reports improved in the differentiation between dense and fatty breast for both projections (MLO = 88.6% and CC = 89.9%). In the second test dataset of 200 mammographies, a good accordance was found between the consensus decision of the two readers on both, the MLO-model (92.2%) and the right craniocaudal-model (87.4%). In the differentiation between fatty (ACR A/B) and dense breasts (ACR C/D), the agreement reached 99% for the MLO and 96% for the CC projections, respectively.

The dCNN allows for accurate classification of breast density based on the ACR BI-RADS system. The proposed technique may allow accurate, standardized, and observer independent breast density evaluation of mammographies.
Standardized classification of mammographies by a dCNN could lead to a reduction of falsely classified breast densities, thereby allowing for a more accurate breast cancer risk assessment for the individual patient and a more reliable decision, whether additional ultrasound is recommended.