Background: There is an increasing interest in non-contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for detecting and evaluating breast lesions. We present a methodology utilizing lesion core and periphery region of interest (ROI) features derived from directional diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) data to evaluate performance in discriminating benign from malignant lesions in dense breasts.
Methods: We accrued 55 dense-breast cases with 69 lesions (31 benign; 38 cancer) at a single institution in a prospective study; cases with ROIs exceeding 7.50 cm2 were excluded, resulting in analysis of 50 cases with 63 lesions (29 benign, 34 cancers). Spin-echo echo-planar imaging DWI was acquired at 1.5 T and 3 T. Data from three diffusion encoding gradient directions were exported and processed independently. Lesion ROIs were hand-drawn on DWI images by two radiologists. A region growing algorithm generated 3D lesion models on augmented apparent-diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps and defined lesion core and lesion periphery sub-ROIs. A lesion-core and a lesion-periphery feature were defined and combined into an overall classifier whose performance was compared to that of mean ADC using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis. Inter-observer variability in ROI definition was measured using Dice Similarity Coefficient (DSC).
Results: The region-growing algorithm for 3D lesion model generation improved inter-observer variability over hand drawn ROIs (DSC: 0.66 vs 0.56 (p < 0.001) with substantial agreement (DSC > 0.8) in 46% vs 13% of cases, respectively (p < 0.001)). The overall classifier improved discrimination over mean ADC, (ROC- area under the curve (AUC): 0.85 vs 0.75 and 0.83 vs 0.74 respectively for the two readers).
Conclusions: A classifier generated from directional DWI information using lesion core and lesion periphery information separately can improve lesion discrimination in dense breasts over mean ADC and should be considered for inclusion in computer-aided diagnosis algorithms. Our model-based ROIs could facilitate standardization of breast MRI computer-aided diagnostics (CADx).