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Lessons From a Cancer Registry Support Specialist: What I've Learned Doing Follow-Up
Follow up blog v2

When I first received my bachelor's degree in health information management, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. We had touched on the cancer registry in a class or two, but I did not know much about it. When I had the opportunity to join CHAMPS Oncology as a cancer registry support specialist, I was elated to find it was exactly what I was looking for. I started out doing follow-up, which involves researching and obtaining updated information on each cancer patient’s disease status. I knew the basics of follow-up but wanted to find out more of why it was so important and what exactly I am contributing by following up on patients.

Here's what I have learned so far during my four years of working on follow-up:

  • Following up regularly provides a continuing narrative of each patient’s cancer journey. It helps determine treatment outcomes, spread or recurrences and survival information. Physicians and researchers can use the aggregated information from each type of cancer to define care standards, most effective treatment, survival rates, etc.
  • Contacting physicians’ offices for follow-up information is an excellent reminder to check in with an oncology patient that they haven’t seen in a while. Receiving the follow-up request prompts the provider to check when and what their last contact with the patient was, and sometimes that’s a nudge alerting them that it’s time to check in with the patient. It’s essential for the patient to remain vigilant with their healthcare even if their cancer treatment has ended. Staying proactive can mean that it’s caught very quickly if a recurrence happens.
  • Aggregate data from the information obtained by follow-up are made available to research databases, including the National Cancer Database (NCDB). The data is then accessible to researchers and providers nationwide and can be used for various purposes, including quality improvement and creating local benchmarks.
  • Continuing regular follow-up ensures that the data used for treatment and research is current, and that survival rates and other statistics are as accurate as possible.

Every single piece of the cancer journey is important, and documenting each step accurately, including yearly follow-up after the cancer diagnosis is made, is vital. Better follow-ups lead to better data, and better data saves lives!

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