Volumetric breast density estimation on MRI using explainable deep learning regression

van der Velden, Bas H M, Janse, Markus H A, Ragusi, Max A A, Loo, Claudette E, Gilhuijs, Kenneth G A


Scientific Reports 10 (1),


To purpose of this paper was to assess the feasibility of volumetric breast density estimations on MRI without segmentations accompanied with an explainability step. A total of 615 patients with breast cancer were included for volumetric breast density estimation. A 3-dimensional regression convolutional neural network (CNN) was used to estimate the volumetric breast density. Patients were split in training (N = 400), validation (N = 50), and hold-out test set (N = 165). Hyperparameters were optimized using Neural Network Intelligence and augmentations consisted of translations and rotations. The estimated densities were evaluated to the ground truth using Spearman's correlation and Bland-Altman plots. The output of the CNN was visually analyzed using SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP). Spearman's correlation between estimated and ground truth density was ρ = 0.81 (N = 165, P < 0.001) in the hold-out test set. The estimated density had a median bias of 0.70% (95% limits of agreement = - 6.8% to 5.0%) to the ground truth. SHAP showed that in correct density estimations, the algorithm based its decision on fibroglandular and fatty tissue. In incorrect estimations, other structures such as the pectoral muscle or the heart were included. To conclude, it is feasible to automatically estimate volumetric breast density on MRI without segmentations, and to provide accompanying explanations.