The bigger the picture – the better the view
Cancer may have only one name, but it’s a disease that comes in many forms. Looked at under a microscope, there are hundreds of types, but examine it even more closely, at a molecular level, and there are hundreds of thousands of variations. And just as cancer has many different characteristics and behaviours, so too do people. Different ages and ethnicities; different lifestyles and habits – all of which make a difference to our chances of getting the disease and to the way we’ll respond to the treatments we’re prescribed.
Imagine if the doctor treating you could also see what’s happened to other people with a similar type of cancer to you, in someone just like you; your age, your gender, with your health and lifestyle. Not only would your treatment be more targeted, but your doctor would be able to give you a much clearer understanding of what’s likely to happen to you during the course of your illness. This is what’s known as personalised medicine, which tailors care to an individual rather than taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Doctors and scientists agree that this approach to care will be as revolutionary as the discovery of antibiotics was nearly a hundred years ago.
The job of the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service, which is part of Public Health England, is to collect information about every single cancer patient, and to use it safely and securely to help doctors and healthcare teams across England. Only by looking at the bigger picture – by collecting data from as many people as possible – can the Cancer Registry teams help doctors decide on the most effective treatment for you.
Collecting information on all cancers across England also helps to:
We now know that three quarters of children with cancer are now cured, compared with around a quarter in the late 1960s
Cancer registry data helped the NHS to decide how many proton beam therapy units to build in the UK. This equipment, which delivers a highly targeted type of radiotherapy, will be able to treat up to 1,500 cancer patients across two centres, London and Manchester, by 2018.
The UK still lags behind many other developed countries when it comes to survival rates for cancer. Only by collecting performance data nationally can we drive up standards and improve treatment.
The data provided by the cancer registry helps to make sure that the NHS screening programmes are safe and effective.
Almost a quarter of cancers are diagnosed in Accident and Emergency departments, which typically have poorer outcomes. The drive towards earlier diagnosis and improved survival rates we have seen over the last few years has been underpinned by registry data and analysis.