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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Find answers to commonly asked questions on the following topics:


Cancer Treatment Questions

Where can I find information about an individual cancer case (questions, treatment, insurance)?

To receive a personalized response to your specific question, contact the NCI's Cancer Information Service (CIS)External Web Site Policy at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

Information is also available on the NCI Web site:

  • Support and ResourcesExternal Web Site Policy for information about cancer support organizations, finances, insurance, hospice care, and home care.
  • Coping with CancerExternal Web Site Policy for information about complications of cancer and its treatment, as well as information on treatment-related nutritional concerns, supportive care clinical trials, and end-of-life issues.

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Cancer Clusters

Whom should I contact if I think I have found a cancer cluster (i.e., you think there is an abnormally high rate of a particular cancer within a group of people or geographic area)?

NCI's Cancer Clusters fact sheetExternal Web Site Policy and CDC's Cancer Clusters FAQExternal Web Site Policy describe what constitutes a cancer cluster and the process for reporting clusters.

You can also contact your local Health Department or Cancer Registry for the state where you think the cluster is located. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site provides lists of State and Local Health DepartmentsExternal Web Site Policy and State Cancer RegistriesExternal Web Site Policy.

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Statistics

What if I cannot find statistics for a particular cancer site?

State Cancer Profiles provides cancer statistics primarily for prioritizing cancer control efforts. The focus is on cancer sites for which there are known, preventable risk factors (e.g., smoking and lung cancer) or screening tests for early detection and effective treatment options (e.g., mammography screening for breast cancer). Statistics are also now provided for additional cancer sites that have been frequently requested and for which stable statistics can be provided for states and for more populous counties.

If you are looking for statistics for a cancer site that is not provided, please check the Finding Cancer StatisticsExternal Web Site Policy page of the Surveillance Research Program of the National Cancer Institute. The statistic may be available in a national report or may be calculated using public use data and tools such as SEER*Stat that empowers a user to define very specific data requests.

Currently, data for the following cancer sites are presented: all invasive cancer sites combined, bladder, breast, brain, cervix, childhood cancers all sites combined, colon & rectum, esophagus, kidney, leukemias, liver & bile duct, lung & bronchus, melanomas of the skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, oral cavity & pharynx, ovary, pancreas, prostate, stomach, thyroid, and uterus.

Do you have prevalence estimates?

Currently, we cannot provide cancer prevalence statistics for states and counties. Cancer prevalence is defined as the number or percent of people alive on a certain date in a population who previously had a diagnosis of the disease. It includes new (incident) and pre-existing cases, and is a function of both past incidence and survival. The Overview of Cancer PrevalenceExternal Web Site Policy page on the Statistical Research & Applications Web site provides a description of the types of and methodology for calculating prevalence statistics, and sources of prevalence statistics for the United States

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Data

What if I cannot find incidence data for a particular state or county?

You can contact the local Health Department or Cancer Registry for the state/county incidence data. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site provides lists of State and Local Health DepartmentsExternal Web Site Policy and State Cancer RegistriesExternal Web Site Policy.

Incidence may not be available for one of the following reasons:

  1. The legislation or regulations for a few state cancer registries do not allow the registry to release county-level data even to the CDC.
  2. Data for the state or metropolitan population-based central cancer registry did not meet selected criteria for inclusion in the United States Cancer Statistics: IncidenceExternal Web Site Policy report which is a prerequisite for inclusion in the State Cancer Profiles Web site.
  3. Statistics for counties or sub-groups with few cases or deaths are suppressed to ensure confidentiality and stability of rate estimates.

Federal programs include the NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)External Web Site Policy from the 1971 National Cancer Act and CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR)External Web Site Policy from the 1992 Cancer Registries Amendment Act that was reauthorized in 1998.

Do you have data for U.S. cities or geographic levels other than nation, state, and county?

The federal data systems only have data at the county, state, and national level. If you would like data for a different geographic area such as a specific city or town, you should check with the State Health Department and/or Cancer Registry of the State (See CDC's lists of State and Local Health DepartmentsExternal Web Site Policy and State Cancer RegistriesExternal Web Site Policy.

Why do the statistics presented on the State Cancer Profiles Web Site differ from those presented by a State Cancer Registry or other organization?

State cancer registries continue to revise and update their data after they are submitted to the federal funding agency (CDCExternal Web Site Policy and/or NCIExternal Web Site Policy). Some cancer cases will likely have been reported to state cancer registries after the submission date. In addition, some state health departments customize state population estimates when calculating incidence and death rates. For this reason, incidence (and death) rates and case counts reported directly by the state cancer registry in their reports and/or web site may differ from rates presented on the State Cancer Profiles Web Site. Behavior Recode for Analysis is used on the State Cancer Profiles Web Site for selecting incidence cases. This choice will exclude some ICD-O-3 malignant cases that would have not been reportable in ICD-O-2. The incidence rates on the State Cancer Profiles Web Site will be lower than rates calculated using ICD-0-3. More information on Behavior Recode for Analysis can be found hereExternal Web Site Policy.

Do you have data on smoking use?

The Screening and Risk Factors Report - Current Smokers or Screening and Risk Factors Report - Ever Smoked 100 Cigarettes contain data on smoking use. BRFSS Survey Data is the source for this data, which is collected by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)External Web Site Policy, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionExternal Web Site Policy in collaboration with state and territory health departments.

Why is 1969-1974 data not used on this Web site?

The SEER program began collecting incidence data in 1973 from seven registries, then Atlanta and Seattle were added in 1974 and 1975, respectively. The most comprehensive incidence data for the SEER 9 registries is available for the years 1975+. See About SEERExternal Web Site Policy for more information. To be consistent with the SEER incidence data, we do not show any other data prior to 1975. We provide a 1975+ range for the Historical Trends graph, which is updated with each data release. Researchers interested in longer periods of time are encouraged to use public use files.

Do you have a list of counties that have changed over time?

County changes and data availability issues are as follows:

  • Due to data availability issues, the time period used in the calculation of the joinpoint regression model may differ for selected racial groups or counties. For a complete list of these, see Joinpoint Trends - Differences.
  • In Alaska, the following two geographic areas are grouped together in the data: Denali Borough (02068) and Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area (02290).
  • In Colorado, Broomfield was incorporated into a county (officially November 15, 2001) from portions of Adams, Boulder, Jefferson and Weld. Data prior to 2002 is used in the calculation of statistics for these counties using the old county boundaries. Since five years of data are not available for Broomfield county, there are not any mortality statistics published on this web site for Broomfield County (08014).

For a more detailed list of county changes over time, please go to the methodsExternal Web Site Policy page of the population data from the SEER Web site.

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Terminology

What is SEER 9?

The SEER 9 cancer registries consist of Atlanta, Connecticut, Detroit, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico, San Francisco-Oakland, Seattle-Puget Sound, and Utah. Data are available for cases diagnosed starting in 1973 for these registries with the exception of Seattle-Puget Sound and Atlanta. The Seattle-Puget Sound and Atlanta registries joined the SEER program in 1974 and 1975, respectively. For more information, visit the SEER Web siteExternal Web Site Policy.

What is NPCR?

NPCR is the National Program of Cancer RegistriesExternal Web Site Policy, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program helps states improve cancer registries and focuses on data collection and surveillance for cancer control and prevention.

What does "All Cancers" mean?

All Cancers refers to all invasive cancers combined. This includes the cancer sites that we list on our Web site such as breast, colon and rectum, melanoma, and prostate, as well as all other invasive cancers. Although we list incidence rates for in situ breast cancer for certain areas, in situ breast cancers are not included in the All Cancer Sites category.

What does "ONS" mean?

ONS stands for Other Nervous System. We combine brain and other nervous system together as one cancer site grouping - Brain and ONS. This includes two groupings:

  • Brain
  • Cranial Nerves Other Nervous System

What does "NOS" mean?

"NOS" stands for Not Otherwise Specified.

How do you determine what is included in a cancer site?

Incidence Data - We use the SEER Site Recode ICD-O-3 (1/27/2003) Definition, which can be found at http://seer.cancer.gov/siterecode/icdo3_d01272003/External Web Site Policy.

Mortality Data - We use a combination of ICD-8, ICD-9, ICD-10. Definitions of the codes can be found at http://seer.cancer.gov/codrecode/1969+_d09172004/External Web Site Policy.

What is a confidence interval?

A confidence interval is a range of values that has a specified probability of containing the rate or trend. The 95% (p-value = .05) and 99% (p-value = .01) confidence intervals are the most common.

How do you define Hispanic?

Hispanic data include all people who identify themselves as being of Hispanic origin. Hispanic ethnicity is considered independently of race, so Hispanic persons may be of any race.

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Data Use

How do I cite data from the State Cancer Profiles Web site as my source of information?

The citation is dependent on which table or graph you are referencing. There are footnotes at the bottom of each graph or table on the Web site noting the source (or a source link) for the data.

How do I export or copy the data from a graph, map or table?

Data is easily exported to a comma-separated value (CSV) file using the "Export Data" link located to the right of most tables, graphs, and maps on the Web site. CSV files can be opened in a spreadsheet program, which will automatically separate the data into columns and rows. For sections of the Web site that do not have an "Export Data" link, use the "Data Table" link instead. Select the data you want to copy from the data table, then copy and paste the data into your spreadsheet program.

How do I use a graph or table in my presentation?

Graphs and Maps:
To use a graph or map in your presentation, click on the "Save Graph" button next to the graph. This will enable you to download an image file of the graph or map. The image file is in PNG format, which is compatible with most modern presentation, word processing, or image software. Some graphs or images may not have an option to copy in this way. When this is the case, use alt-PrtScr to copy an image of the current window to the clipboard and then paste into your presentation. Next select the image in your presentation document and right click for format picture to access options to crop unwanted areas, add borders, and resize.

The other option is to use the "Data Table" link to export the data as a CSV file or to copy and paste the data into a spreadsheet program. Once the data is in a spreadsheet, you can use your presentation or graphing software to create a graph or table.

Tables
Use one of the methods described in this question to export or copy table data for use in a spreadsheet program. Once you have the data, it can be formatted to meet your needs. Most presentation software will allow you to import data from a spreadsheet.

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Usability

What is a cookie?

A cookie is a small piece of information that our computer sends to your Internet browser. Due to government privacy regulations, our cookie will only be on your computer until you close your browser.

When I go to the Comparative Data Display section, I only see a gray box ( or gray box with an "X"). How can I get this section to work properly?

You need Java installed for this section to work properly. Go to http://java.sun.comExternal Web Site Policy, and download the latest version of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). If you have any questions or problems, please contact us.

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Miscellaneous Questions

Please help us to improve this portion of the State Cancer Profiles site by contacting us in regards to any questions you have that you did not find here.

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