Some would view greater reliance on data as having the potential to de-humanize cancer care. On the contrary: The cold, hard numbers that capture the details of our medical histories, the nature of our cancer and the realities of our treatment experiences will ultimately serve to make cancer care more patient-centric, humane and personalized.

360-degree care

Care informed by data about a patient's history, disease, wants and needs allows caregivers and doctors to come into every interaction with a more complete picture of each patient's particular condition, and to make decisions that are informed not only by medical guidelines, charts and lab results, but also by their patients' unique circumstances and preferences. When that data is accessible to patients and their families as well, it empowers and equips patients to become more of an equal partner in care decisions.

"The capturing and sharing of patient data can lead to better, more precise diagnoses and treatments for other patients sharing similar conditions."

The capturing and sharing of patient data—when stripped of personally identifiable information and properly protected—can also help to inform research leading to better, more precise diagnoses and treatments for other patients sharing similar conditions.

Similarly, when patient data is available at the point of care, physicians can evaluate how a much broader set of patients with shared characteristics are responding to different approaches, thereby helping them to provide the most effective, safe, tolerable and affordable treatments to meet their particular patient's unique needs and circumstances.

On the horizon

The future of cancer care—more patient-centered, humane and personalized—is fast approaching, and it's riding on a wave of data. Patients and caregivers can give momentum to this wave by participating in registries and other credible and secure data-sharing programs and initiatives, especially those being led by patient groups advocating on their behalf.

In so doing, they will help not only to enhance the quality and effectiveness of treatment for a range of cancers, but also assure each patient's place at the center of cancer care.