Process of Cancer Data Collection

Cancer data collection begins by identifying people with cancer who have been diagnosed or received medical care in hospitals, outpatient clinics, radiology departments, doctors' offices, laboratories, surgical centers, or from other providers who diagnose or treat cancer patients.

By law, these facilities are required to report new cancer cases to a central cancer registry such as a state cancer registry. The cases can be reported to the cancer registry electronically or in traditional paper format following nationally recognized reporting protocols to assure consistency in case reporting from facility to facility.

Cancer registries do not simply wait for cancer information to be handed over from the sources mentioned above. Instead, staff members of cancer registries become actively involved in casefinding activities so that the cancer information they receive is as complete as possible. Cancer registrars often accomplish this by visiting hospitals and clinics to ensure that no cancer data or cases are missed.

To ensure the quality of cancer data, cancer registries may create and adopt their own innovative data collection systems. For example, the New Hampshire Cancer Registry utilizes a two-phase reporting system, which requires that cancer information (primary site, histology, etc.) be reported within 95 days of diagnosis and demographic and staging information be reported within 180 days of the date of diagnosis.

Cancer data collection is a time- and labor-intensive effort, but the great value of its product, cancer statistics, makes all of the hard work worthwhile.