Using MeSH for cancer research:
MeSH (Medical Subject Headings): provides a consistent way to retrieve information where authors use different terminology for the same concepts. To search PubMed effectively, you will need to be aware of the MeSH terms used to search for topics in this area. PubMed does not use the word cancer in its list of terms. The correct MeSH term is neoplasms. This term has an extensive number of more specific terms associated with it, and you can see these listed in the MeSH database.
Many topics in MeSH have hierarchies of more specific subcategories or related terms. The indentations in the lists reflect the structure of the hierarchy, and the + signs at the end of terms indicate that there is a further hierarchy of terms not displayed here. Any of these terms can be searched individually, or you can "explode" terms to search sections of the list. For example "exploding" Neoplasms by Site would retrieve articles on cancers in all the sites listed, from Abdominal Neoplasms to Urinogenital Neoplasms, and all of their subcategories indicated by the presence of a + sign.
When you search for subjects using MeSH you will also have the option of adding subheadings to narrow the focus of your search:
PubMed search strategy example:
Below is one possble search strategy for mortality from Respiratory Tract Neoplasms (a subset of Thoracic Neoplasms which appears in the list of Neoplasms by Site)
"respiratory tract neoplasms/mo"[majr] AND English[lang]
This search strategy uses the subheading mortality, which is abbreviated to mo, associated with cancers of the respiratory tract. The section in the square brackets includes majr - which focuses the search on articles where the subject is a major issue in the article. The search is then limited to articles in English or with English abstracts. PubMed's default setting is to explode all terms, and so this search will include the subcategories of respiratory tract neoplasms listed below.
PubMed Subject Filters:
PubMed also has a number of subject filters. This one was created jointly by NLM and the National Cancer Institute to facilitate searching for subjects in all areas of cancer, ranging from clinical care to basic research. This filter can also be used in a search as cancer[sb].
For example: survivors AND cancer[sb]