Web-based calculator accurately predicts cancer survival

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Predicting a cancer patient's chance of survival allows individuals to make informed decisions, but many techniques are not especially accurate. In a study, published in BMJ, researchers tested a new web-based survival calculator in patients with bowel cancer.

Developed by researchers at the University of Nottingham and ClinRisk, a medical software company, the 'QCancer Colorectal Survival' calculator allows physicians and patients to make informed decisions on treatment options. Designed by Julia Hippisley-Cox and Carol Coupland, professors in the university's school of medicine, the calculator uses patient data from 1,500 general practices from the Egton Medical Information Systems (EMIS) computer system.

The tool was able to differentiate predictions for men and women from 44,000 patients, evaluating information based on risk factors like smoking history, body mass index, family history, previous illnesses and treatments. The study tested the calculator’s predictive abilities at one, five and 10 years for 15,214 bowel cancer patients from 305 different practices. Results showed the calculator provided strong models for the prediction of cancer survival outcomes as well as providing estimates for how mortality risk changes over time.

"Current methods of estimating survival tend to be unreliable and sometimes patients can be given a fairly misleading and unnecessarily gloomy prognosis based only on the grade and stage of their cancer, only to find that in reality they live much longer than these crude predictions when other information is taken into account,” said Hippisley-Cox. “The good news is that this new calculator which doctors and patients can access will offer a far more realistic estimate. We understand that not everyone will want to do this, of course, but some patients are very keen on this approach so it's an individual choice."