We have evaluated the performance of an automated classifier applied to the task of differentiating malignant and benign lung nodules in low-dose helical computed tomography (CT) scans acquired as part of a lung cancer screening program. The nodules classified in this manner were initially identified by our automated lung nodule detection method, so that the output of automated lung nodule detection was used as input to automated lung nodule classification. This study begins to narrow the distinction between the "detection task" and the "classification task." Automated lung nodule detection is based on two- and three-dimensional analyses of the CT image data. Gray-level-thresholding techniques are used to identify initial lung nodule candidates, for which morphological and gray-level features are computed. A rule-based approach is applied to reduce the number of nodule candidates that correspond to non-nodules, and the features of remaining candidates are merged through linear discriminant analysis to obtain final detection results. Automated lung nodule classification merges the features of the lung nodule candidates identified by the detection algorithm that correspond to actual nodules through another linear discriminant classifier to distinguish between malignant and benign nodules. The automated classification method was applied to the computerized detection results obtained from a database of 393 low-dose thoracic CT scans containing 470 confirmed lung nodules (69 malignant and 401 benign nodules). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to evaluate the ability of the classifier to differentiate between nodule candidates that correspond to malignant nodules and nodule candidates that correspond to benign lesions. The area under the ROC curve for this classification task attained a value of 0.79 during a leave-one-out evaluation.
- Computed tomography
- Computer-aided diagnosis (CAD)
- Image processing
- Lung cancer
- Lung nodules