Explainable machine learning for breast cancer diagnosis from mammography and ultrasound images: a systematic review

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Breast cancer is the most common disease in women. Recently, explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) approaches have been dedicated to investigate breast cancer. An overwhelming study has been done on XAI for breast cancer. Therefore, this study aims to review an XAI for breast cancer diagnosis from mammography and ultrasound (US) images. We investigated how XAI methods for breast cancer diagnosis have been evaluated, the existing ethical challenges, research gaps, the XAI used and the relation between the accuracy and explainability of algorithms.


In this work, Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses checklist and diagram were used. Peer-reviewed articles and conference proceedings from PubMed, IEEE Explore, ScienceDirect, Scopus and Google Scholar databases were searched. There is no stated date limit to filter the papers. The papers were searched on 19 September 2023, using various combinations of the search terms ‘breast cancer’, ‘explainable’, ‘interpretable’, ‘machine learning’, ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘XAI’. Rayyan online platform detected duplicates, inclusion and exclusion of papers.


This study identified 14 primary studies employing XAI for breast cancer diagnosis from mammography and US images. Out of the selected 14 studies, only 1 research evaluated humans’ confidence in using the XAI system—additionally, 92.86% of identified papers identified dataset and dataset-related issues as research gaps and future direction. The result showed that further research and evaluation are needed to determine the most effective XAI method for breast cancer.


XAI is not conceded to increase users’ and doctors’ trust in the system. For the real-world application, effective and systematic evaluation of its trustworthiness in this scenario is lacking.

PROSPERO registration number


Gurmessa, D. k., Jimma, W.

Gurmessa, D. k., Jimma, W.

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