T-staging pulmonary oncology from radiological reports using natural language processing: translating into a multi-language setting

J.M. Nobel*, S. Puts, J. Weiss, H.J.W.L. Aerts, R.H. Mak, S.G.F. Robben, A.L.A.J. Dekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background In the era of datafication, it is important that medical data are accurate and structured for multiple applications. Especially data for oncological staging need to be accurate to stage and treat a patient, as well as population-level surveillance and outcome assessment. To support data extraction from free-text radiological reports, Dutch natural language processing (NLP) algorithm was built to quantify T-stage of pulmonary tumors according to the tumor node metastasis (TNM) classification. This structuring tool was translated and validated on English radiological free-text reports. A rule-based algorithm to classify T-stage was trained and validated on, respectively, 200 and 225 English free-text radiological reports from diagnostic computed tomography (CT) obtained for staging of patients with lung cancer. The automated T-stage extracted by the algorithm from the report was compared to manual staging. A graphical user interface was built for training purposes to visualize the results of the algorithm by highlighting the extracted concepts and its modifying context. Results Accuracy of the T-stage classifier was 0.89 in the validation set, 0.84 when considering the T-substages, and 0.76 when only considering tumor size. Results were comparable with the Dutch results (respectively, 0.88, 0.89 and 0.79). Most errors were made due to ambiguity issues that could not be solved by the rule-based nature of the algorithm. Conclusions NLP can be successfully applied for staging lung cancer from free-text radiological reports in different languages. Focused introduction of machine learning should be introduced in a hybrid approach to improve performance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number77
Number of pages11
JournalInsights into Imaging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021


  • Radiology
  • Reporting
  • Natural language processing
  • Free-text
  • Classification system

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