An adaptive Fuzzy C-means method utilizing neighboring information for breast tumor segmentation in ultrasound images

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Ultrasound (US) imaging has been widely used in breast tumor diagnosis and treatment intervention. Automatic delineation of the tumor is a crucial first step, especially for the computer-aided diagnosis (CAD) and US-guided breast procedure. However, the intrinsic properties of US images such as low contrast and blurry boundaries pose challenges to the automatic segmentation of the breast tumor. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to propose a segmentation algorithm that can contour the breast tumor in US images.


To utilize the neighbor information of each pixel, a Hausdorff distance based fuzzy c-means (FCM) method was adopted. The size of the neighbor region was adaptively updated by comparing the mutual information between them. The objective function of the clustering process was updated by a combination of Euclid distance and the adaptively calculated Hausdorff distance. Segmentation results were evaluated by comparing with three experts’ manual segmentations. The results were also compared with a kernel-induced distance based FCM with spatial constraints, the method without adaptive region selection, and conventional FCM.


Results from segmenting 30 patient images showed the adaptive method had a value of sensitivity, specificity, Jaccard similarity, and Dice coefficient of 93.60 Symbol 5.33%, 97.83 Symbol 2.17%, 86.38 Symbol 5.80%, and 92.58 Symbol 3.68%, respectively. The region-based metrics of average symmetric surface distance (ASSD), root mean square symmetric distance (RMSD), and maximum symmetric surface distance (MSSD) were 0.03 Symbol 0.04 mm, 0.04 Symbol 0.03 mm, and 1.18 Symbol 1.01 mm, respectively. All the metrics except sensitivity were better than that of the non-adaptive algorithm and the conventional FCM. Only three region-based metrics were better than that of the kernel-induced distance based FCM with spatial constraints.


Inclusion of the pixel neighbor information adaptively in segmenting US images improved the segmentation performance. The results demonstrate the potential application of the method in breast tumor CAD and other US-guided procedures.

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