Diagnostics in oncology

Guiding key decisions across every journey—enabling more personalised care

Published 23 June 2021

As our understanding of cancer evolves, we continue to explore innovative ways to improve the lives of patients along their entire journey

The second leading cause of mortality—a first priority1

A cancer diagnosis is very personal, but its impact can be far-reaching. Cancer is responsible for approximately one in six deaths,1 with approximately 70% of cases occurring in low- and middle-income countries.2 Genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, as well as certain infectious diseases, are notable factors associated with increased risk of cancer.2

The disease begins with a disruption in the tightly-regulated cycle of cell replication. Changes within a single cell (damage to its DNA, for example) can affect its ability to repair itself or self-destruct. Uncontrolled replication can result in a build-up of cells called a tumour. If malignant, this mass may continue to grow, invade other parts of the body or spread to other organs.2

The global burden of cancer is incalculable

Totalling $80.2 billion in the US alone in 2015, the direct medical costs of cancer are significant but they only tell part of the story.3 The life-altering impact of cancer extends beyond the individual, affecting immediate and extended family, friends, colleagues, employers and others.

Globally, the incidence of cancer-related deaths is rising. However, this is due largely to an aging and growing population. If caught early, survival rates of many people living with cancer improve. Many cancers are not detected early enough in their development to significantly impact survival, often due to limited screening.1,4 If current trends continue, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts a 60% rise in cancer cases globally over the next two decades.2 Low- and middle-income countries project an 81% increase in cancer-related mortality.4 Regardless of economic standing, delays in treatment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to further impact cancer-related mortality.

Access to timely, accurate testing, quality treatment, and follow-up care is essential for survival rates to improve,4 and to give patients the best chance to spend less time (or no time) in the hospital.

For both patients and clinicians, diagnostics are more than the diagnosis

Diagnostics impact almost all key decision along the patient journey

To an individual, news of a cancer diagnosis can be life-shattering but from this diagnosis emerges a pathway forward. Recent years have shown notable progress in our abilities to manage disease—from early prevention to decisions about treatment and disease management. In addition, evolving tools help clinicians to gain rich insights into individual patients, and seamlessly consult colleagues anywhere in the world. For patients, diagnostics guide nearly every important decision, before, during and after therapy to give them the best opportunity for a healthy life:

Risk evaluation

As some cancers are more likely to develop under certain criteria, evaluation programmes help people understand if they are predisposed to, or at heightened risk of, disease.

Cancer screening

With a physical exam, an analysis of health history, and testing, specific types of cancer can be identified before signs or symptoms appear.

Disease determination

Typically, a tissue sample is collected during a procedure called a biopsy which will then be tested to determine the presence of cancer and whether it has spread.

Therapy selection

If cancer is confirmed, additional testing can help doctors decide on a treatment plan, potentially including tests for biomarkers (biological signals that indicate disease) to help personalise treatment.

Treatment monitoring

Regular check-ups are important for determining the effectiveness of therapy and mitigating the long-term complications associated with cancer therapy.

Follow-up care

As care for people with cancer does not end when active treatment does, doctors will monitor a patient’s overall health to check for recurrent cancers or to manage any side effects.

Transforming the patient experience, from innovation to outcome

Oncology care teams leverage diagnostic insights to inform timely, confident, and personalised treatment decisions

Our understandings of the underlying biology of cancer and the genomic characteristics of individual tumours have increased dramatically. Similar progress has revolutionised the tools we use to analyse patient data. Today, these insights are transforming the way cancer is viewed, diagnosed, and treated, enabling more personalised patient care through targeted therapeutics.


A mosaic of life after cancer

Stories of survival not only provide hope to cancer patients, but they also remind oncology care teams why they work so hard to find new treatments.
Get to know the survivors

Innovation is in our DNA

Empowering laboratories to meet the growing demand for testing

As the incidence of cancer grows and more testing is required, laboratories face pressure to adapt and evolve. Across testing disciplines—molecular, sequencing, immunochemistry, imaging, tissue, and digital diagnostics—Roche’s comprehensive ecosystem of solutions ensure laboratories and healthcare professionals have the tools they need to give patients the care they deserve.


  1. World Health Organisation. Cancer. Accessed December 21, 2020.
  2. World Health Organisation. Cancer: Key Facts. Accessed December 21, 2020.
  3. Economic impact of cancer. Accessed December 21, 2020.
  4. World Health Organisation. WHO outlines steps to save 7 million lives from cancer. Accessed December 21, 2020.

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Tags: Science, Innovation, Society, Patients, Diagnostics, Oncology, Ovarian cancer, Skin caner, Brain-cancer, Breast-cancer, Cervical cancer, Colorectal cancer, Hematology, Lung cancer