Deep Learning-Based Grading of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ in Breast Histopathology Images

Suzanne C. Wetstein, Nikolas Stathonikos, Josien P. W. Pluim, Yujing J. Heng, Natalie D. ter Hoeve, Celien P. H. Vreuls, Paul J. van Diest, Mitko Veta

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Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive breast cancer that can progress into invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). Studies suggest DCIS is often overtreated since a considerable part of DCIS lesions may never progress into IDC. Lower grade lesions have a lower progression speed and risk, possibly allowing treatment de-escalation. However, studies show significant inter-observer variation in DCIS grading. Automated image analysis may provide an objective solution to address high subjectivity of DCIS grading by pathologists. In this study, we developed a deep learning-based DCIS grading system. It was developed using the consensus DCIS grade of three expert observers on a dataset of 1186 DCIS lesions from 59 patients. The inter-observer agreement, measured by quadratic weighted Cohen's kappa, was used to evaluate the system and compare its performance to that of expert observers. We present an analysis of the lesion-level and patient-level inter-observer agreement on an independent test set of 1001 lesions from 50 patients. The deep learning system (dl) achieved on average slightly higher inter-observer agreement to the observers (o1, o2 and o3) ($\kappa_{o1,dl}=0.81, \kappa_{o2,dl}=0.53, \kappa_{o3,dl}=0.40$) than the observers amongst each other ($\kappa_{o1,o2}=0.58, \kappa_{o1,o3}=0.50, \kappa_{o2,o3}=0.42$) at the lesion-level. At the patient-level, the deep learning system achieved similar agreement to the observers ($\kappa_{o1,dl}=0.77, \kappa_{o2,dl}=0.75, \kappa_{o3,dl}=0.70$) as the observers amongst each other ($\kappa_{o1,o2}=0.77, \kappa_{o1,o3}=0.75, \kappa_{o2,o3}=0.72$). In conclusion, we developed a deep learning-based DCIS grading system that achieved a performance similar to expert observers. We believe this is the first automated system that could assist pathologists by providing robust and reproducible second opinions on DCIS grade.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2010.03244
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2020


  • DCIS
  • Deep learning
  • Histopathology image analysis
  • Histopathology
  • Medical image classification


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