Probability maps for deep learning-based head and neck tumor segmentation: Graphical User Interface design and test

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Background: The different tumor appearance of head and neck cancer across imaging modalities, scanners, and acquisition parameters accounts for the highly subjective nature of the manual tumor segmentation task. The variability of the manual contours is one of the causes of the lack of generalizability and the suboptimal performance of deep learning (DL) based tumor auto-segmentation models. Therefore, a DL-based method was developed that outputs predicted tumor probabilities for each PET-CT voxel in the form of a probability map instead of one fixed contour. The aim of this study was to show that DL-generated probability maps for tumor segmentation are clinically relevant, intuitive, and a more suitable solution to assist radiation oncologists in gross tumor volume segmentation on PET-CT images of head and neck cancer patients.

Method: A graphical user interface (GUI) was designed, and a prototype was developed to allow the user to interact with tumor probability maps. Furthermore, a user study was conducted where nine experts in tumor delineation interacted with the interface prototype and its functionality. The participants’ experience was assessed qualitatively and quantitatively.

Results: The interviews with radiation oncologists revealed their preference for using a rainbow colormap to visualize tumor probability maps during contouring, which they found intuitive. They also appreciated the slider feature, which facilitated interaction by allowing the selection of threshold values to create single contours for editing and use as a starting point. Feedback on the prototype highlighted its excellent usability and positive integration into clinical workflows.

Conclusions: This study shows that DL-generated tumor probability maps are explainable, transparent, intuitive and a better alternative to the single output of tumor segmentation models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108675
Number of pages7
JournalComputers in biology and medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2024


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