Consistency and accuracy of diagnostic cancer codes generated by automated registration: Comparison with manual registration

Giovanna Tagliabue, Anna Maghini, Sabrina Fabiano, Andrea Tittarelli, Emanuela Frassoldi, Enrica Costa, Silvia Nobile, Tiziana Codazzi, Paolo Crosignani, Roberto Tessandori, Paolo Contiero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Automated procedures are increasingly used in cancer registration, and it is important that the data produced are systematically checked for consistency and accuracy. We evaluated an automated procedure for cancer registration adopted by the Lombardy Cancer Registry in 1997, comparing automatically-generated diagnostic codes with those produced manually over one year (1997). Methods: The automatically generated cancer cases were produced by Open Registry algorithms. For manual registration, trained staff consulted clinical records, pathology reports and death certificates. The social security code, present and checked in both databases in all cases, was used to match the files in the automatic and manual databases. The cancer cases generated by the two methods were compared by manual revision. Results: The automated procedure generated 5027 cases: 2959 (59%) were accepted automatically and 2068 (41%) were flagged for manual checking. Among the cases accepted automatically, discrepancies in data items (surname, first name, sex and date of birth) constituted 8.5% of cases, and discrepancies in the first three digits of the ICD-9 code constituted 1.6%. Among flagged cases, cancers of female genital tract, hematopoietic system, metastatic and ill-defined sites, and oropharynx predominated. The usual reasons were use of specific vs. generic codes, presence of multiple primaries, and use of extranodal vs. nodal codes for lymphomas. The percentage of automatically accepted cases ranged from 83% for breast and thyroid cancers to 13% for metastatic and ill-defined cancer sites. Conclusion: Since 59% of cases were accepted automatically and contained relatively few, mostly trivial discrepancies, the automatic procedure is efficient for routine case generation effectively cutting the workload required for routine case checking by this amount. Among cases not accepted automatically, discrepancies were mainly due to variations in coding practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalPopulation Health Metrics
Publication statusPublished - Sep 28 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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