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Computer finds colorectal cancer risk by checking patients’ records

A computer algorithm can identify patients at risk of colorectal cancer by checking their records, reducing the need for invasive tests to detect it.

A computer algorithm can identify patients at risk of colorectal cancer by checking their records, reducing the need for invasive tests to detect it

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A computer algorithm could reduce the need for invasive tests to detect colorectal cancer.

Researchers say advances in technology using algorithms – data analysis by computers – have made it possible to search rapidly through existing NHS records to see if a patient is at risk of colorectal cancer.

Researchers from Oxford University used National Institute for Health Research funding to test an algorithm developed by IT firm Medial Research in Israel.

Using 2.5 million UK patients’ records, the technology was able to indicate levels of risk by analysing blood test results.

More accurate

Visiting professor at Oxford University Julietta Patnick, who was director of NHS Cancer Screening when the project was initiated and is one of the study’s authors, said: ‘The beauty of this algorithm is that it is a system which can be applied to GP surgery data, running quickly and efficiently to give a more accurate level of risk.

‘It works by analysing demographic information and results from blood tests and blood test markers in a patient’s medical record.’

Researchers say it has the potential to save lives through early detection and reduce the need for expensive and invasive tests. Used alongside existing NHS bowel cancer screening, it could be used to make a risk assessment in primary care more accurate.


Birks J et al (2017) Evaluation of a prediction model for colorectal cancer: retrospective analysis of 2.5 million patient records. Cancer Medicine. doi: 10.1002/cam4.1183

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