Consistency of density categories over multiple screening rounds using volumetric breast density

K. Holland, C. van Gils, J. Wanders, R. Mann and N. Karssemeijer

Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America 2015.

PURPOSE As a result of the breast density laws, clinicians in many states are obliged to inform women about their breast density and the increased risk that is associated with dense breasts. An increasing number of women with dense breasts decides to have supplemental screening. Using an automated software system, we investigated the consistency of the classification of serial screening mammograms in non-dense and dense classes over time. METHOD AND MATERIALS Full field digital mammograms from a breast cancer screening program were used in which women are invited every two years, starting at the age of 50. The initial screening exam and three subsequent screening exams were available for 2504 women. The average screening interval was 24.4 months. All images were processed by Volpara 1.5.0 (Matakina, Wellington, New Zealand); volumetric percent breast density (PDV) was calculated and averaged over both MLO images. Using the thresholds of the Volpara Density Grade (VDG), all exams were classified as non-dense (PDV<7.5, VDG1+2) or dense (PDV>7.5, VDG3+4). Additionally, to avoid class switches due to small fluctuations of PDV, we defined a gated threshold as follows: For a change to the dense category a PDV greater than 8.3 was required, for a decrease a threshold of 6.7 was used. The gate width was based on noise measures. RESULTS The majority of women stayed in the same category for the whole period, 38.9% non-dense and 34.5% dense, using the fixed threshold. In 18.1% of the women density decreased and the class changed from dense to non-dense; The deviating patterns were as follows: For 2.4% of the women one intermediate exam was classified as non-dense, while all other exams were dense. Three non-dense and one dense exam were observed in 3.8%. In 2.4% two exams were classified as dense and two as non-dense. Use of the gated threshold reduced the number of women with a deviating pattern. CONCLUSION Classification into dense and non-dense classes gives stable results over time. Only in a small fraction of the population do we need to assume that an exam was not assigned to the proper class. Use of a gated threshold to separate the non-dense from the dense class reduces the percentage of misclassified exams. CLINICAL RELEVANCE/APPLICATION A consistent classification in non-dense and dense classes is important, as women and clinicians might lose confidence in the stratification process when supplemental screening is offered in deviating pattern.