A comprehensive methodology for determining the most informative mammographic features

Yirong Wu, Oguzhan Alagoz, Mehmet U.S. Ayvaci, Alejandro Munoz Del Rio, David J. Vanness, Ryan Woods, Elizabeth S. Burnside

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This study aims to determine the most informative mammographic features for breast cancer diagnosis using mutual information (MI) analysis. Our Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-approved database consists of 44,397 consecutive structured mammography reports for 20,375 patients collected from 2005 to 2008. The reports include demographic risk factors (age, family and personal history of breast cancer, and use of hormone therapy) and mammographic features from the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System lexicon. We calculated MI using Shannon's entropy measure for each feature with respect to the outcome (benign/malignant using a cancer registry match as reference standard). In order to evaluate the validity of the MI rankings of features, we trained and tested naïve Bayes classifiers on the feature with tenfold cross-validation, and measured the predictive ability using area under the ROC curve (AUC). We used a bootstrapping approach to assess the distributional properties of our estimates, and the DeLong method to compare AUC. Based on MI, we found that mass margins and mass shape were the most informative features for breast cancer diagnosis. Calcification morphology, mass density, and calcification distribution provided predictive information for distinguishing benign and malignant breast findings. Breast composition, associated findings, and special cases provided little information in this task. We also found that the rankings of mammographic features with MI and AUC were generally consistent. MI analysis provides a framework to determine the value of different mammographic features in the pursuit of optimal (i.e., accurate and efficient) breast cancer diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-947
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Digital Imaging
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Science Applications


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