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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Fuzzy technique for microcalcifications clustering in digital mammograms

Letizia Vivona, Donato Cascio*, Francesco Fauci and Giuseppe Raso

Author Affiliations

Dipartimento di Fisica e Chimica, Università Degli Studi di Palermo, Palermo, Italy

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BMC Medical Imaging 2014, 14:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2342-14-23

Published: 24 June 2014



Mammography has established itself as the most efficient technique for the identification of the pathological breast lesions. Among the various types of lesions, microcalcifications are the most difficult to identify since they are quite small (0.1-1.0 mm) and often poorly contrasted against an images background. Within this context, the Computer Aided Detection (CAD) systems could turn out to be very useful in breast cancer control.


In this paper we present a potentially powerful microcalcifications cluster enhancement method applicable to digital mammograms. The segmentation phase employs a form filter, obtained from LoG filter, to overcome the dependence from target dimensions and to optimize the recognition efficiency. A clustering method, based on a Fuzzy C-means (FCM), has been developed. The described method, Fuzzy C-means with Features (FCM-WF), was tested on simulated clusters of microcalcifications, implying that the location of the cluster within the breast and the exact number of microcalcifications are known.

The proposed method has been also tested on a set of images from the mini-Mammographic database provided by Mammographic Image Analysis Society (MIAS) publicly available.


The comparison between FCM-WF and standard FCM algorithms, applied on both databases, shows that the former produces better microcalcifications associations for clustering than the latter: with respect to the private and the public database we had a performance improvement of 10% and 5% with regard to the Merit Figure and a 22% and a 10% of reduction of false positives potentially identified in the images, both to the benefit of the FCM-WF. The method was also evaluated in terms of Sensitivity (93% and 82%), Accuracy (95% and 94%), FP/image (4% for both database) and Precision (62% and 65%).


Thanks to the private database and to the informations contained in it regarding every single microcalcification, we tested the developed clustering method with great accuracy. In particular we verified that 70% of the injected clusters of the private database remained unaffected if the reconstruction is performed with the FCM-WF. Testing the method on the MIAS databases allowed also to verify the segmentation properties of the algorithm, showing that 80% of pathological clusters remained unaffected.

Breast cancer; Microcalcifications; Spatial filters; Clustering; Fuzzy logic; C-means; Mammography; Segmentation