Cancer recurrence is the diagnosis of a second clinical episode of cancer after the first was considered cured. Identifying patients who had experienced cancer recurrence is an important task as it can be used to compare treatment effectiveness, measure recurrence-free survival, and plan and prioritize cancer control resources. We developed BERT-based natural language processing (NLP) contextual models for identifying cancer recurrence incidence and the recurrence time based on the records in progress notes. Using two datasets containing breast and colorectal cancer patients, we demonstrated the advantage of the contextual models over the traditional NLP models by overcoming the laborious and often unscalable tasks of composing keywords in a specific disease domain.
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