Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Magnetic resonance imaging for lung cancer detection: Experience in a population of more than 10,000 healthy individuals

Nai-Yuan Wu123, Hui-Cheng Cheng14, James S Ko14, Yu-Chen Cheng14, Po-Wei Lin14, Wei-Chan Lin14, Cheng-Yen Chang4* and Der-Ming Liou2*

Author Affiliations

1 VGH-HT Imaging Center, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

2 Institute of BioMedical Informatics, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan

3 Department of Family Medicine, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

4 Department of Radiology, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:242  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-242

Published: 13 June 2011



Recent refinements of lung MRI techniques have reduced the examination time and improved diagnostic sensitivity and specificity. We conducted a study to assess the feasibility of MRI for the detection of primary lung cancer in asymptomatic individuals.


A retrospective chart review was performed on images of lung parenchyma, which were extracted from whole-body MRI examinations between October 2000 and December 2007. 11,766 consecutive healthy individuals (mean age, 50.4 years; 56.8% male) were scanned using one of two 1.5-T scanners (Sonata and Sonata Maestro, Siemens Medical Solutions, Erlangen, Germany). The standard protocol included a quick whole-lung survey with T2-weighted 2-dimensional half Fourier acquisition single shot turbo spin echo (HASTE) and 3-dimensional volumetric interpolated breath-hold examination (VIBE). Total examination time was less than 10 minutes, and scanning time was only 5 minutes. Prompt referrals and follow-ups were arranged in cases of suspicious lung nodules.


A total of 559 individuals (4.8%) had suspicious lung nodules. A total of 49 primary lung cancers were diagnosed in 46 individuals: 41 prevalence cancers and 8 incidence cancers. The overall detection rate of primary lung cancers was 0.4%. For smokers aged 51 to 70 years, the detection rate was 1.4%. TNM stage I disease accounted for 37 (75.5%). The mean size of detected lung cancers was 1.98 cm (median, 1.5 cm; range, 0.5-8.2 cm). The most histological types were adenocarcinoma in 38 (77.6%).


Rapid zero-dose MRI can be used for lung cancer detection in a healthy population.