The Value of a Certified Tumor Registrar | Blog

Certified Tumor Registrar

The Value of a Certified Tumor Registrar

Wed, Jun 6, 2018  -  Comments (0)  -   Posted by Tara Lucero

There continues to be confusion surrounding the work of a Certified Tumor Registrar (otherwise known as a CTR or cancer registrar). When others ask, “What do you do?” I am stumped to create an appropriate answer. Do I blurt out, “I’m a cancer registrar” knowing I will get a blank stare or complete silence? Do I say, “Well, where do I begin…” and elaborate on this profound profession? Or do I sit them down to watch CHAMPS Oncology’s 2014 “What is a Cancer Registrar” video?

The truth is, it continues to take time to really understand the role of a certified tumor registrar, which means it takes time to help others understand. Remember – our profession is still relatively new! According to the National Cancer Registrars Association, in the 35 years we’ve been around, only 4,500 individuals have received their CTR degree in the U.S. That’s approximately 130 each year. To put that in context, consider my other profession, nursing, which has been around since the 19th century. There are currently more than 4 million nurses in the nation. And I don’t think nurses have a hard time helping others understand what they do.

So, for a decade, I have put forth effort to not only show my community what I do, but reinforce the value of a certified tumor registrar within the medical industry. And I celebrated when the American Joint Committee on Cancer recognized us by dedicating their 8th Edition Manual to our work! I felt validated and the question, “What do you do?” became much simpler for me to answer…

“I am a Certified Tumor Registrar, a leader in the discovery of cancer and its effects on the world.” 

How did I come to such a powerful response? When you discuss this subject with fellow CTRs your responses can vary as much as abstracting rules (Ha! CTR joke). Some believe they simply plug in data, while others believe they review records and extrapolate required material, which then leads to others doing more work to get it “turned into…what matters.” While those are steps toward the goal, that is not the sum of who we are or what we do.

I believe we are all leaders in our field – aiding physicians in making appropriate choices for the care of their cancer patients. The information we collect allows other professionals to make evidence-based decisions. Without our data, it would be near impossible to create tools such as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, AJCC Staging Guidelines or Oncologic Clinical Research initiatives. The implications of our work are vast and extensive. And I am lucky to work for an organization that supports that mindset by providing cancer registry careers that allow its CTRs to feel inspired and grow each and every day.

Before I wrap up this post, I want to encourage all of my fellow certified tumor registrars to pat yourselves on the back, smile, reflect and be humbly honored by your successes and all that is to come. It is imperative that we continue to learn, study and improve our skills. We are a significant force in the war on cancer and we should be proud of the work we have done these past 35 years!

What makes you most proud to be a certified tumor registrar?

Posted in Cancer Registry

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