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Studies reported in the literature indicate that breast cancer risk is associated with mammographic densities. An objective, repeatable, and a quantitative measure of risk derived from mammographic densities will be of considerable use in recommending alternative screening paradigms and/or preventive measures. However, image processing efforts toward this goal seem to be sparse in the literature, and automatic and efficient methods do not seem to exist. Here, the authors describe and validate an automatic and reproducible method to segment dense tissue regions from fat within breasts from digitized mammograms using scale-based fuzzy connectivity methods. Different measures for characterizing mammographic density are computed from the segmented regions and their robustness in terms of their linear correlation across two different projections-cranio-caudal and medio-lateral-oblique-are studied. The accuracy of the method is studied by computing the area of mismatch of segmented dense regions using the proposed method and using manual outlining. A comparison between the mammographic density parameter taking into account the original intensities and that just considering the segmented area indicates that the former may have some advantages over the latter.
Date of Publication: Aug. 2001