Accurate segmentation of breast mass in 3D automated breast ultrasound (ABUS) images plays an important role in qualitative and quantitative ABUS image analysis. Yet this task is challenging due to the low signal to noise ratio and serious artifacts in ABUS images, the large shape and size variation of breast masses, as well as the small training dataset compared with natural images. The purpose of this study is to address these difficulties by designing a dilated densely connected U-Net (DU-Net) together with an uncertainty focus loss.
A lightweight yet effective densely connected segmentation network is constructed to extensively explore feature representations in the small ABUS dataset. In order to deal with the high variation in shape and size of breast masses, a set of hybrid dilated convolutions is integrated into the dense blocks of the DU-Net. We further suggest an uncertainty focus loss to put more attention on unreliable network predictions, especially the ambiguous mass boundaries caused by low signal to noise ratio and artifacts. Our segmentation algorithm is evaluated on an ABUS dataset of 170 volumes from 107 patients. Ablation analysis and comparison with existing methods are conduct to verify the effectiveness of the proposed method.
Experiment results demonstrate that the proposed algorithm outperforms existing methods on 3D ABUS mass segmentation tasks, with Dice similarity coefficient, Jaccard index and 95% Hausdorff distance of 69.02%, 56.61% and 4.92 mm, respectively.
The proposed method is effective in segmenting breast masses on our small ABUS dataset, especially breast masses with large shape and size variations.

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