Background: Axillary lymph-node assessment is considered one of the most important prognostic factors concerning breast cancer survival.
Objective: We investigated the discriminative power of morphological and functional features in assessing the axillary lymph node.
Methods: We retrospectively analysed data from 52 consecutive patients who undergone DCE-MRI and were diagnosed with primary breast carcinoma: 94 lymph nodes were identified. Per each lymph node, we extracted morphological features: circularity, compactness, convexity, curvature, elongation, diameter, eccentricity, irregularity, radial length, entropy, rectangularity, roughness, smoothness, sphericity, spiculation, surface, and volume. Moreover, we extracted functional features: time to peak (TTP), maximum signal difference (MSD), wash-in intercept (WII), wash-out intercept (WOI), wash-in slope (WIS), wash-out slope (WOS), area under gadolinium curve (AUGC), area under wash-in (AUWI), and area under wash-out (AUWO). Selection of important features in predicting metastasis has been done by means of receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis. Performance of linear discriminant analysis was analysed.
Results: All morphological features but circularity showed a significant difference between median values of metastatic lymph nodes group and nonmetastatic lymph nodes group. All dynamic parameters except for MSD and WOS showed a statistically significant difference between median values of metastatic lymph nodes group and nonmetastatic lymph nodes group. Best results for discrimination of metastatic and nonmetastatic lymph nodes were obtained by AUGC (accuracy 75.8%), WIS (accuracy 71.0%), WOS (accuracy 71.0%), and AUCWO (accuracy 72.6%) for dynamic features and by compactness (accuracy 82.3%), curvature (accuracy 71.0%), radial length (accuracy 71.0%), roughness (accuracy 74.2%), smoothness (accuracy 77.2%), and speculation (accuracy 72.6%) for morphological features. Linear combination of all morphological and/or of all dynamic features did not increase accuracy in metastatic lymph nodes discrimination.
Conclusions: Compactness as morphological feature and area under time-intensity curve as dynamic feature were the best parameters in identifying metastatic lymph nodes on breast MRI.