Optimization of breast mass classification using sequential forward floating selection (SFFS) and a support vector machine (SVM) model

Maxine Tan, Jiantao Pu, Bin Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Improving radiologists’ performance in classification between malignant and benign breast lesions is important to increase cancer detection sensitivity and reduce false-positive recalls. For this purpose, developing computer-aided diagnosis schemes has been attracting research interest in recent years. In this study, we investigated a new feature selection method for the task of breast mass classification.

Methods: We initially computed 181 image features based on mass shape, spiculation, contrast, presence of fat or calcifications, texture, isodensity, and other morphological features. From this large image feature pool, we used a sequential forward floating selection (SFFS)-based feature selection method to select relevant features and analyzed their performance using a support vector machine (SVM) model trained for the classification task. On a database of 600 benign and 600 malignant mass regions of interest, we performed the study using a tenfold cross-validation method. Feature selection and optimization of the SVM parameters were conducted on the training subsets only.

Conclusion: In conclusion, this comprehensive feature analysis study provided new and valuable information for optimizing computerized mass classification schemes that may have potential to be useful as a “second reader” in future clinical practice.

Results: The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (Formula presented.) was obtained for the classification task. The results also showed that the most frequently selected features by the SFFS-based algorithm in tenfold iterations were those related to mass shape, isodensity, and presence of fat, which are consistent with the image features frequently used by radiologists in the clinical environment for mass classification. The study also indicated that accurately computing mass spiculation features from the projection mammograms was difficult, and failed to perform well for the mass classification task due to tissue overlap within the benign mass regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1005-1020
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Computer-aided diagnosis of mammograms
  • Feature selection
  • Pattern classification

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