What is cancer registration information used for?

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The information in the cancer registry can tell us at a national level how many people are diagnosed with cancer, what treatments they have, how long they live, and whether this is getting better or worse.  But how is it used?

The cancer registry ensures that the NHS knows how many people are diagnosed with particular types of cancer. This information is valuable in planning cancer services. For example, knowing the number of people who would benefit allowed the NHS to decide how many proton beam machines to build in England.

Read our blog about proton beam therapy

By identifying trends in the number of people diagnosed with cancer, how long they live and how successful their treatment and care is, the cancer registry can be used to monitor how well the NHS is doing and identify what it could do to improve. This may result in the NHS and government changing what services are provided or how they are organised.

The cancer registry allows the number of cancer cases to be tracked over time and the causes of any changes to be investigated. It also lets researchers investigate possible causes of cancer, for example whether mobile phones, wifi, or powerlines might cause cancer.

See more about cancer controversies which might cause cancer

The cancer registry can be used to check whether someone being investigated or treated for cancer has a family history of the disease. This may affect their treatment. Another example is when new information emerges about the long-term effects of treatment that someone has had in the past. The cancer registry can be used to find out who has received this treatment.

Both Cancer Research UK staff and our researchers make use of information from cancer registries. Some examples include:

  • Many of the statistics presented on this website are based on information collected by the UK’s cancer registries.
  • The Cancer Research UK Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine use cancer registry data to understand trends and variation in cancer survival.
  • The International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership is a global partnership that uses information from cancer registries to quantify international differences in cancer survival and identify factors that might explain the variation.
  • The National Cancer Diagnosis Audit links data from the cancer registry to information from GPs to help understand patterns of cancer diagnosis for all cancer types, across the UK.
  • Cancer Research UK staff worked with Public Health England to measure the proportion of lung and breast cancer patients from England who die within 30 days of receiving chemotherapy or other systemic anti-cancer treatments, helping doctors minimise the risks and improve care for their patients.
  • The National Cancer Intelligence Network’s ‘Routes to diagnosis’ project has used cancer registry and other NHS data to show how cancer patients are diagnosed, informing work to reduce the number who receive their diagnosis following an emergency admission.

See more about Cancer Research UK Cancer Survival Group

See more about the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership

See more about the National Cancer Diagnosis Audit

Read our blog on systemic anti-cancer treatments

Read our blog about routes to diagnosis

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