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Outside the Lab Clinical care, Oncology, Profession, Quality assurance and quality control, Regulation and standards

A Question of Cancers

At a Glance

  • Different diagnostic and reporting guidelines mean that patients in different locations may not receive consistent cancer diagnoses
  • To standardize these guidelines, we need international collaboration, guided by a single entity such as the ICCR
  • The ICCR works with the WHO and professional pathology organizations worldwide to establish diagnostic datasets for each type of cancer
  • Success requires resources – not just financial, but also in terms of contributions from as many subject matter experts as possible

Who diagnoses cancer? Members of the public are likely to respond “oncologists” or simply “doctors.” Patients may have a somewhat clearer idea. But medical professionals will know that, most of the time, it is the pathologist who makes the diagnosis. In fact, for many of us, cancer is such a significant part of our work that I refer to us as “diagnostic oncologists” – those responsible for naming and guiding the treatment of our patients’ cancers.

But what are the characteristics that define a specific type of cancer? And, beyond that, what is the particular stage or grade of tumor? The answer may differ from region to region, or even between institutions. Obviously, such differences can impede patient care – especially as changing economies and technologies make our patient populations more globally mobile than ever. The solution? A set of cancer diagnostic and prognostic reporting guidelines that are consistent around the world – and that is precisely the goal of the International Collaboration on Cancer Reporting (ICCR).

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About the Author

John Srigley

John Srigley is President of the International Collaboration on Cancer Reporting, Professor of of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at University of Toronto, and Consultant Pathologist at Trillium Health Partners, Toronto, Canada

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