April 8-12, 2019 marked the observance of the 23rd annual National Cancer Registrars Week (NCRW). This year’s theme, Cancer Registrars: Capturing the Picture of Cancer, illustrates the vital role cancer registrars play in collecting information that is crucial to oncology research, improved treatment and patient outcomes, and cancer prevention.

Cancer registrars are driven by health data. Each element of data compiled by cancer registrars tells an important part of a patient’s story and adds to the collective knowledge that is the key to finding a cure.

What Is a Cancer Registrar?

Like other professionals in the field of health information management, cancer registrars, or Certified Tumor Registrars (CTRs), are driven by health data. Reliable, valid, complete, secure, and accessible clinical data is the lifeblood of healthcare. CTRs are data information specialists who collect the data healthcare providers and health officials need to monitor and improve cancer treatment, conduct research, and develop cancer prevention and screening programs.

CTRs work in a variety of cancer treatment and research settings and hail from diverse backgrounds. I’ve worked with CTRs with health information management (HIM) and allied health experience, as well as others from medical, business, and administrative areas throughout the healthcare industry. In addition to in-depth knowledge surrounding the data we work with and the associated processes of accurately capturing and managing that data, CTRs also possess a passion for quality, an eye for detail, an aptitude for data analysis, the willingness to continually learn, and a strong desire to improve the lives of individuals touched by cancer.

The Evolving Role of the Cancer Registrar

Given the rapidly changing field of oncology, increasing use of technology, and shifting landscape of healthcare policy, CTRs must constantly expand their knowledge and grow as professionals.

  • With the increasing use of technology and the related surge in available data, the role of the CTR is steadily becoming more complex, with an increased focus on data auditing and analysis. As subject matter experts in oncology data, CTRs are also able to extract important details hidden within unstructured data or validate data extracted utilizing natural language processing (NLP) or other automated processes.
  • Advances in oncology, such as the more frequent utilization of biomarkers and molecular testing in the diagnostic process and the use of targeted therapies as part of treatment, require CTRs to expand their knowledge to ensure the accurate capture of this new information. This becomes increasingly important as the use of precision medicine expands from academic centers to become more routine in the community cancer care setting.
  • As key members of the multi-disciplinary cancer care team in the hospital setting, CTRs have the opportunity to provide additional value to cancer program leadership by delivering data to assist in a multitude of ways, such as identifying disparities in care, supporting quality initiatives, and assessing the need for and supporting the addition of new services.

Rising to these challenges gives CTRs the opportunity to make an even greater impact on improvements in quality of care, treatment advancements, and better patient outcomes.

Thank you to all cancer registrars for the amazing work that you do and for your dedication to improving the lives of those with cancer. Happy National Cancer Registrars Week!

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