The Cancer Maps

Dr Ben Nobel, Woodbrook Medical Centre, Loughborough

The problem:

Advice on best practice can be difficult to access and requires focused reading. NICE guidance, for example, is extremely useful but not easily accessible in a way that can be utilised in a consultation without disrupting the consultation. The summaries of the NICE guidance NG12 cancer guideline covers identifying children, young people and adults with symptoms that could be caused by cancer. We wanted this to be more easily accessible than the usual A4 text-heavy sheets or static, complex infographics so that this information could easily be used in a consultation or elsewhere.

The Bright Idea:

The Cancer Maps is an interactive online tool based on the NICE guideline NG12 cancer guidelines, designed to be used during consultations to help clinicians with possible cancer symptoms.

I used mind maps to summarise the guidance, digitised them and introduced an interactive feature allowing the user to search for particular symptoms and where they occur in the guidance.

A tutorial is embedded within the website and explains how the maps can be used. The main central branches represent the organs or systems; these are followed by the NICE advice (cancer referral, investigation etc) and, as the branches become more peripheral, the red flag symptoms are listed.

The maps are easily used during consultations with the patient present and can inform the user of the direction their consultation must take. The mapping was done by using iMindMap software and other software packages are available. My time was covered in part by Cancer Research UK, West Leicestershire CCG and the East Midlands Cancer Alliance.

Not only is this tool relevant across England, it can be easily adapted, with changes in guidance to apply to other nations. The approach is also relevant for a number of other specialties, for example, diabetes, respiratory and cardiology.

The impact:

  • Staff: The Cancer Maps is an effective, popular interactive reference tool for GPs. The frequency of their use by GPs in the pilot demonstrates a need for awareness and education about cancer guidelines for health professionals.
    Users overwhelmingly felt their knowledge of the cancer guidelines had increased as a result of using the tool and felt more confident when making cancer referrals. More than half of users made referrals (based on best practice) they otherwise wouldn’t have.
  • Other: It is likely that similar interactive mind-mapping tools have further uses in medicine beyond cancer.

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