I'm writing a master paper in biomedical sciences that involves doing a retrospective cohort study on a database of soft tissue tumor patients. I am inexperienced in statistics, and would like to have some general advice on how to start off with it. The database is an Access file (and parallel Excel file), with 1280 patients with patient and tumor characteristics. My study involves an analysis of prognostic factors. (A little bit like this study, though this is a prospective one). Are there any sources that state in a step-by-step fashion how to set up a study like this? (If only I had more time I would try to get a general basis in statistics to start from.) Is it generally feasible for an absolute beginner to set up a study like this, or will I need direct assistance from somebody experienced in it? I do have access to applications like SAS, Statistica and SPSS.

Thanks for any guidance and suggestions,