Mass candidate detection is a crucial component of multistep computer-aided detection (CAD) systems. It is usually performed by combining several local features by means of a classifier. When these features are processed on a per-image-location basis (e.g., for each pixel), mismatching problems may arise while constructing feature vectors for classification, which is especially true when the behavior expected from the evaluated features is a peaked response due to the presence of a mass. In this study, two of these problems, consisting of maxima misalignment and differences of maxima spread, are identified and two solutions are proposed.
The first proposed method, feature maxima propagation, reproduces feature maxima through their neighboring locations. The second method, local feature selection, combines different subsets of features for different feature vectors associated with image locations. Both methods are applied independently and together.
The proposed methods are included in a mammogram-based CAD system intended for mass detection in screening. Experiments are carried out with a database of 382 digital cases. Sensitivity is assessed at two sets of operating points. The first one is the interval of 3.5–15 false positives per image (FPs/image), which is typical for mass candidate detection. The second one is 1 FP/image, which allows to estimate the quality of the mass candidate detector's output for use in subsequent steps of the CAD system. The best results are obtained when the proposed methods are applied together. In that case, the mean sensitivity in the interval of 3.5–15 FPs/image significantly increases from 0.926 to 0.958 (p < 0.0002). At the lower rate of 1 FP/image, the mean sensitivity improves from 0.628 to 0.734 (p < 0.0002).
Given the improved detection performance, the authors believe that the strategies proposed in this paper can render mass candidate detection approaches based on image location classification more robust to feature discrepancies and prove advantageous not only at the candidate detection level, but also at subsequent steps of a CAD system.