Cancer survival could “significantly improve” with more data collection

Stephen Chapman's picture

If the NHS collected more data, then cancer care could be improved, according to the public services think tank, Reform.

It believes that if data on survival, treatment, patient experience and medical history were collected, stored and analysed that it would be possible to improve treatment, get earlier diagnosis and increase effectiveness of treatment.

“One of the NHS’s greatest assets is the data it collects on us all and this paper shows how data can better be used to improve cancer outcomes. Insight from data not only leads to more effective treatment but can also significantly help to diagnose cancer far earlier, so patients have the best chance of survival,” said report author and Reform research manager, Maisie Borrows (pictured).

The report does praise the organisation for creating the cancer dashboard, which collects some data. However, it calls on the NHS to extend this to cover additional areas. It argues that it should also add data from apps and wearables to allow a fuller understanding of the patient experience.

With almost 40% of cancer caused by preventable factors, such as obesity and smoking, the dashboard could then be used by GPs to get additional insight about the patient and help those at risk to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Reform believes that the accuracy of screening for breast cancer could also be increased with better data and artificial intelligence. A high proportion of mammograms yield false positive results when interpreted by a human radiologist, leading to one in two healthy women being told inaccurately that they may have cancer.

“Making the best use of data is really important for the current NHS Cancer Strategy. That is why, in addition to the dashboard, we have already introduced a new data service for cancer alliances for the first time - bringing together data on screening, diagnosis, treatment and patient experience,” added Cally Palmer, national director for cancer at NHS England.

 “Alongside this report, we have also received a number of proposals for taking this work forward through the long term plan and look forward to exploring some of these ideas.”

Reform concludes that the cancer dashboard data could be linked to the 100,000 Genome Project to encourage the use of personalised medicine, targeted at the genetic profile of a patient’s tumour.

NHS Digital, which is the national information and technology operation of the NHS, is based in Leeds.

The report is available here.