Correct and consistent cancer staging is needed for treatment planning and review of outcomes, including screening, new diagnostic technologies and survival. The complexity of staging rules makes complete staging rarely achievable in some settings. An easily accessible, automated instrument to calculate TNM and stage groups would be of great value, especially where not all basic data of the patients’ disease are available or where resources are limited.
To foster comparable staging, even where limited patient information is collected, by means of a piece of software calculating TNM, site-specific cancer staging classifications and fine or coarse-grained stage groups.
The Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development of the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the TNM Core Group of the Union for International Cancer Control joined forces to develop an online staging tool. To assess usability and potential benefits to cancer registries, a pilot tool was made available via web browser for three months. Volunteer testers were asked to enter 50 cases (Breast, Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Cervix) and feedback on consistency of output, issues encountered, potential benefits to their activities and desired improvements.
52 registries from 37 countries accessed the tool and 8 organisations provided formal feedback. 5 found the coarse-grained stage grouping functions of the tool useful; 2 did not respond on these points; 1 did not find these functions useful. The ‘live’ tool was released in May 2014 (http://go.qub.ac.uk/CanStaging). Identified errors were fixed and suggested improvements were implemented or planned for a later release.
Initial formal and informal feedback is encouraging. Later releases will include further features and enhancements, including additional cancer sites and translation in various languages. Thanks to the UICC, this tool is available at no cost for non-profit use.