Medical certification of cause of death
From a health perspective, it is important to know the specific cancer type associated with every cancer death, because prevention strategies differ markedly from one type of cancer to another. For example, preventing lung cancer requires tobacco-control policies, while preventing stomach cancer requires diet-based interventions, such as reducing salt intake.
The death certificate should always state the primary site of the cancer, if known, as the UCOD.
For example, liver cancer can be a primary or secondary due to a cancer in another part of the body (eg primary colon cancer). Secondary lung cancer can occur due to primary cancer in the breast.
Therefore, it is important to state where the primary cancer is and list it as the UCOD, even if the primary cancer was removed sometime before.
For example, if a patient died from secondary brain tumour due to a primary breast cancer that was removed five years ago, primary breast cancer should be reported as the UCOD.
Histology and staging information improve the clarity of the diagnosis and should therefore be included on the death certificate.