A Mixed Focal Loss Function for Handling Class Imbalanced Medical Image Segmentation

by   Michael Yeung, et al.

Automatic segmentation methods are an important advancement in medical imaging analysis. Machine learning techniques, and deep neural networks in particular, are the state-of-the-art for most automated medical image segmentation tasks, ranging from the subcellular to the level of organ systems. Issues with class imbalance pose a significant challenge irrespective of scale, with organs, and especially with tumours, often occupying a considerably smaller volume relative to the background. Loss functions used in the training of segmentation algorithms differ in their robustness to class imbalance, with cross entropy-based losses being more affected than Dice-based losses. In this work, we first experiment with seven different Dice-based and cross entropy-based loss functions on the publicly available Kidney Tumour Segmentation 2019 (KiTS19) Computed Tomography dataset, and then further evaluate the top three performing loss functions on the Brain Tumour Segmentation 2020 (BraTS20) Magnetic Resonance Imaging dataset. Motivated by the results of our study, we propose a Mixed Focal loss function, a new compound loss function derived from modified variants of the Focal loss and Focal Dice loss functions. We demonstrate that our proposed loss function is associated with a better recall-precision balance, significantly outperforming the other loss functions in both binary and multi-class image segmentation. Importantly, the proposed Mixed Focal loss function is robust to significant class imbalance. Furthermore, we showed the benefit of using compound losses over their component losses, and the improvement provided by the focal variants over other variants.


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