Anomaly Detection of Calcifications in Mammography Based on 11,000 Negative Cases

Rui Hou, Yifan Peng, Lars J. Grimm, Yinhao Ren, MacIej A. Mazurowski, Jeffrey R. Marks, Lorraine M. King, Carlo C. Maley, E. Shelley Hwang, Joseph Y. Lo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In mammography, calcifications are one of the most common signs of breast cancer. Detection of such lesions is an active area of research for computer-aided diagnosis and machine learning algorithms. Due to limited numbers of positive cases, many supervised detection models suffer from overfitting and fail to generalize. We present a one-class, semi-supervised framework using a deep convolutional autoencoder trained with over 50,000 images from 11,000 negative-only cases. Since the model learned from only normal breast parenchymal features, calcifications produced large signals when comparing the residuals between input and reconstruction output images. As a key advancement, a structural dissimilarity index was used to suppress non-structural noises. Our selected model achieved pixel-based AUROC of 0.959 and AUPRC of 0.676 during validation, where calcification masks were defined in a semi-automated process. Although not trained directly on any cancers, detection performance of calcification lesions on 1,883 testing images (645 malignant and 1238 negative) achieved 75% sensitivity at 2.5 false positives per image. Performance plateaued early when trained with only a fraction of the cases, and greater model complexity or a larger dataset did not improve performance. This study demonstrates the potential of this anomaly detection approach to detect mammographic calcifications in a semi-supervised manner with efficient use of a small number of labeled images, and may facilitate new clinical applications such as computer-aided triage and quality improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1639-1650
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • Image segmentation
  • autoencoders
  • breast cancer
  • calcifications
  • computer-aided triage
  • mammography
  • semi-supervised learning
  • structural similarity index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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