Cancer Registrar: Meet Your Cancer Data Expert

Cancer Registrars are the cancer data experts working behind-the-scenes in healthcare organizations. Little is known about them because they focus their expertise and energy on required data collection, reporting, and internal collaboration with physicians, administrators and other members of the healthcare team. Cancer Registrars review the medical record information and identify, code, and classify demographic, clinical and treatment information as it is entered into a specialized database. The American Cancer Society projects that more than 1.5 million new cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2010, so this represents a significant contribution to healthcare by these experts each year.The history of cancer has been documented as far back as 2500 B.C. In the United States it was 1956 when the American College of Surgeons required a registrar as a component of an accredited cancer program. It was not until 1993 when many of the states mandated cancer as a reportable disease. While the law requires physicians and healthcare providers as the responsible parties for reporting, cancer registrars are designated by the physicians and healthcare organizations to perform the tasks to meet these requirements.Cancer Registrars receive specialized training in the scientific, clinical and pathological disease processes including diagnosis, treatment and lifetime follow-up of the cancer patient as well as healthcare privacy, confidentiality and security measures. Each registrar must have extensive knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, cancer diagnosis and treatment methods, and tumor staging. Recent advances in genetics, personalized medicine and biological therapies are also part of the registrar’s knowledge base. Topping this off, the registrar must also be familiar with statistical and epidemiological uses of registry data, such as treatment outcomes and survival statistics, so that they may accurately prepare reports on trends and incidences of cancer for use in research and publications.Healthcare facilities accredited by the Commission on Cancer and American College of Surgeons are required to have at least one certified cancer registrar, or CTR, to manage and oversee the registry operations. In 2012 new standards will require that all registrars who abstract, or perform the coding and classification tasks in the registry, must possess a valid CTR certification. This signifies that the individual is knowledgeable in the current best practice techniques and has received specialized training in the coding and classification methods used to ensure that high quality cancer data is made available.While you may not see a cancer registrar in your doctor’s clinic or in the hallways of your healthcare organizations, you can rest assured that they are working diligently behind-the-scenes to collect accurate, complete, and timely information. Cancer Registrars are continually collaborating with the physicians and healthcare team to monitor the delivery of high quality patient care. They provide informatics support, as required by law, for use by physicians, scientists, and government agencies to study outcomes and effects of treatment, develop new treatment methods and, ultimately, to find a cure for cancer.The job outlook for cancer registrars in 2010 and beyond is excellent! Learn how to jump-start your new career as a cancer registrar… Click here to learn how you can become a cancer data expert.

DNA and Cancer Risk

According to the National cancer Institute: “Cancer is a genetic disease-that is, cancer is caused by certain changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. These changes include mutations in the DNA that makes up our genes.” As this quote claims, changes to our genes, such as mutations in the DNA, can increase the risk of cancer. These changes are either Inherited or Acquired.Inherited Gene MutationsIf someone in your family has cancer, does that mean you will get it? Not necessarily, but if there is a history of cancer in your family, it may point to DNA. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that inherited genetic mutations play a major role in about five to ten percent of all cancers.You can inherit cancer-predisposing genetic mutations from your parents if those genetic mutations were present in their reproductive cells. Such genetic changes are called germline changes and, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), these changes are present in every cell of the offspring. Therefore, if your parents had cancer-causing genetic mutations in their reproductive cells, every cell in your body would have the same genetic mutations.It is worth noting, however, that these are “potential” cancer-causing genetic changes. These mutated genes are NOT a guarantee of cancer. While they GENERALLY increase the risk of developing it, the level of risk is different person to person.Acquired Gene MutationsIn addition to mutations that may be passed down from parent to child, cancer-causing mutations in the DNA may also be caused during a person’s lifetime as a result of errors in cell division or exposure to carcinogens. These “acquired” genetic changes may arise at any time during a person’s life.Benefits of Genetic Testing & Importance of Early DetectionAccording to the American Cancer Society, “early detection of cancer through screening has been determined to reduce mortality from cancers of the colon and rectum, breast, uterine cervix, and lung.”Screenings, such as mammograms, are used to check for the presence of cancer but do not determine a person’s level of risk for potentially developing cancer in the future. If you have a family history of cancer, genetic testing can identify whether or not you carry known cancer-causing mutations. In fact, NCI asserts that “many experts recommend that genetic testing for cancer risk be considered when someone has a personal or family history that suggests an inherited cancer risk condition… ”