Hybrid Transfer Learning for Classification of Uterine Cervix Images for Cervical Cancer Screening


Transfer learning using deep pre-trained convolutional neural networks is increasingly used to solve a large number of problems in the medical field. In spite of being trained using images with entirely different domain, these networks are flexible to adapt to solve a problem in a different domain too. Transfer learning involves fine-tuning a pre-trained network with optimal values of hyperparameters such as learning rate, batch size, and number of training epochs. The process of training the network identifies the relevant features for solving a specific problem. Adapting the pre-trained network to solve a different problem requires fine-tuning until relevant features are obtained. This is facilitated through the use of large number of filters present in the convolutional layers of pre-trained network. A very few features out of these features are useful for solving the problem in a different domain, while others are irrelevant, use of which may only reduce the efficacy of the network. However, by minimizing the number of filters required to solve the problem, the efficiency of the training the network can be improved. In this study, we consider identification of relevant filters using the pre-trained networks namely AlexNet and VGG-16 net to detect cervical cancer from cervix images. This paper presents a novel hybrid transfer learning technique, in which a CNN is built and trained from scratch, with initial weights of only those filters which were identified as relevant using AlexNet and VGG-16 net. This study used 2198 cervix images with 1090 belonging to negative class and 1108 to positive class. Our experiment using hybrid transfer learning achieved an accuracy of 91.46%.

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This publication is made possible by a sub-agreement from the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) at Massachusetts General Hospital with funds provided by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID grant number 224581). We would like to acknowledge the support of Mark Schiffman, M.D, M.P.H., Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, USA, for providing us with cervix images. We would like to acknowledge the support of Dr. Suma Nair, Associate Professor, Community Medicine Department, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, for facilitating the acquisition of images during the screening programs conducted.

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Correspondence to Keerthana Prasad.

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Kudva, V., Prasad, K. & Guruvare, S. Hybrid Transfer Learning for Classification of Uterine Cervix Images for Cervical Cancer Screening. J Digit Imaging 33, 619–631 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10278-019-00269-1

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  • Cervical cancer screening
  • Deep learning
  • Transfer learning
  • Hybrid transfer learning
  • Machine learning
  • Medical image classification
  • Artificial intelligence