Can search engine data save lives from pancreatic cancer?

Gerd Gigerenzer discusses how search engines use big data analytics to “diagnose” your state of health | BMJ Opinion

Image source: NIH Image Gallery – Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Image shows pancreatic desmoplasia. Pancreatic cancer is associated with a vast desmoplastic reaction in which the connective tissue around the tumor thickens and scars. 

Imagine this warning popping up on your search engine page: “Attention! There are signs that you might have pancreatic cancer. Please visit your doctor immediately.” Just as search engines use big data analytics to detect your book and music preferences, they may also “diagnose” your state of health.

Microsoft researchers have claimed that web search queries could predict pancreatic adenocarcinoma. A retrospective study of 6.4 million users of Microsoft’s search engine Bing identified first-person queries suggestive of a recent diagnosis, such as “I was told I have pancreatic cancer, what to expect.” Then the researchers went back months before these queries were made and looked for earlier ones indicating symptoms or risk factors, such as blood clots and unexplained weight loss. They concluded that their statistical classifiers “can identify 5% to 15% of cases, while preserving extremely low false-positive rates (0.00001 to 0.0001)”, and that “this screening capability could increase 5-year survival.” The New York Times reported: “The study suggests that early screening can increase the five-year survival rate of pancreatic patients to 5 to 7 percent, from just 3 percent.”

Read the full blog post here


Organisational characteristics, teamwork & service delivery in lung cancer diagnostic assessment programmes

Honein-AbouHaidar, G.N. et al. (2017) BMJ Open. 7:e013965.


Objectives: Diagnostic assessment programmes (DAPs) can reduce wait times for cancer diagnosis, but optimal DAP design is unknown. This study explored how organisational characteristics influenced multidisciplinary teamwork and diagnostic service delivery in lung cancer DAPs.

Conclusions: This study identified several DAP characteristics that could be improved to facilitate teamwork and enhance service delivery, thereby contributing to knowledge of organisational determinants of teamwork and associated outcomes. Findings can be used to update existing DAP guidelines, and by managers to plan or evaluate lung cancer DAPs. Ongoing research is needed to identify ideal roles for navigators, and staffing models tailored to case volumes.

Read the full article here

NHS England’s combined monthly performance statistics

NHS England has published a summary of the monthly performance statistics on:

The long-term trend is one of greater volumes of both urgent and emergency care and elective activity, with ambulance calls receiving a face-to-face response up 7.6%, A&E attendances up 5.0%, emergency admissions up 3.6%, diagnostic tests up 5.0% and consultant-led treatment up 4.5%.More detail can be found within each individual release.

Related: Health Foundation response to A&E and monthly performance statistics


Presenting patient-reported outcomes data to patients and clinicians to improve interpretability

Snyder, C.F. et al. Cancer. Published online: 13 January 2017


Background: Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) (eg, symptoms, functioning) can inform patient management. However, patients and clinicians often have difficulty interpreting score meaning. The authors tested approaches for presenting PRO data to improve interpretability.

Conclusions: The current results support presenting PRO data with higher = better directionality and threshold lines indicating normal versus concerning scores.

Read the full abstract here

Lung Cancer Clinical Outcome Publication 2016

The clinical outcomes publication is an NHS England initiative to publish quality measures at unit level and the level of individual consultant doctor using national clinical audit and administrative data | RCoP

Image source: RCoP

The aims of publishing these results are to:

  • reassure patients that the quality of clinical care is high
  • assist patients in having an informed conversation with their consultant or GP about the procedure or operation they may have
  • provide information to individuals, teams and organisations to allow them to monitor and improve the quality of the clinical care they provide locally and nationally.

Read the overview here

Read the full report here

Training in Clinical Oncology and the Transition from Trainee to Consultant

Dickson, J. Clinical Oncology. Published online: November 10, 2016



  • New consultants would like more exposure to advanced radiotherapy techniques during specialty training.
  • Out-of-programme activities helped prepare trainees for their first consultant post.
  • The FRCR Examination is seen as essential in a technical specialty like clinical oncology.
  • Challenges faced by new consultants include a heavy workload and frequent changes to job plan between interview and start date.
  • New consultants are often reliant on arranging informal mentoring with colleagues for advice and support by themselves.

Read the abstract here

Breast screening: national radiographic workforce report 2016

Public Health England | First published: 7 November 2016

This report complements the previous radiology workforce census and should inform future workforce training and planning in the NHS Breast Screening Programme.

All 4 tiers of the radiographic workforce in the programme were surveyed. The report analyses staffing, vacancy rates, retirements, training routes and attitudes of radiographic staff to workforce issues.

Image source:

Read the full report here