Learning diagnostic labels from image content has been the standard in computer-aided diagnosis. Most computer-aided diagnosis systems use low-level image features extracted directly from image content to train and test machine learning classifiers for diagnostic label prediction. When the ground truth for the diagnostic labels is not available, reference truth is generated from the experts diagnostic interpretations of the image/region of interest. More specifically, when the label is uncertain, e.g. when multiple experts label an image and their interpretations are different, techniques to handle the label variability are necessary.
In this paper, we compare three consensus techniques that are typically used to encode the variability in the experts labeling of the medical data: mean, median and mode, and their effects on simple classifiers that can handle deterministic labels (decision trees) and probabilistic vectors of labels (belief decision trees). Given that the NIH/NCI Lung Image Database Consortium (LIDC) data provides interpretations for lung nodules by up to four radiologists, we leverage the LIDC data to evaluate and compare these consensus approaches when creating computer-aided diagnosis systems for lung nodules.
First, low-level image features of nodules are extracted and paired with their radiologists semantic ratings (1= most likely benign, , 5 = most likely malignant); second, machine learning multi-class classifiers that handle deterministic labels (decision trees) and probabilistic vectors of labels (belief decision trees) are built to predict the lung nodules semantic ratings. We show that the mean-based consensus generates the most robust classi- fier overall when compared to the median- and mode-based consensus. Lastly, the results of this study show that, when building CAD systems with uncertain diagnostic interpretation, it is important to evaluate different strategies for encoding and predicting the diagnostic label.