When people are diagnosed with or die from cancer, there are facility records, regional records, and national records of those cancer patients. The medical professionals who maintain those records are called certified tumor registrars. These people review records of cancer patients, review medical reports, and code the diagnostic and treatment records of cancer patients. They also track the progress of cancer patients over time and note whether the patients live or die. To become a certified tumor registrar, you will need to acquire at least an associate's degree, undergo job-specific training, and be certified by a national testing board.
In the past, on-the-job training was the only form of education for a person who wanted to become a certified tumor registrar. Subsequently, educational programs have been created to train registrars; these programs are accredited by the National Cancer Registrar's Association (NCRA). The programs offer an associate's degree or certificate in cancer registry. If you want further training after the degree or certificate, you can pursue a bachelor's degree with a specialization in tumor registry. An alternative path would be to get a degree in medical coding and then get a certificate in cancer registry from an NCRA-accredited program.
It is important to learn the skills required for this job while in school. For example, it typically is necessary to learn data collection, medical coding, cancer management, medical terminology, epidemiology, biostatistics, cancer data abstraction, database management, and cancer registry procedures. After satisfying the educational and training requirements, you will then have to pass the national certified tumor registrar (CTR) exam.
After completing all of the requirements, cancer registrars can work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, doctors' offices, national health standards organizations, or even independent consultation companies. Some tumor registrars work in the same office daily. Others become a certified registrar and travel nationwide to work at health facilities that need the registrar's skills.
The information that is coded by cancer tumor registrars is important because it enables doctors and public health workers to better understand the occurrence of cancer. For instance, the information enables researchers to statistically determine the rates of cancer death and of survival. The information helps decision-makers decide how resources should be allocated. Also, the information helps in the evaluation of cancer treatments and in the planning of educational programs for doctors, cancer patients, and others.