How Do I Become a Tumor Registrar?

C. Mitchell

Although the rules governing how one may become a tumor registrar vary from place to place, in most cases, all that is required is an associate’s degree or basic certification in medical terminology and passage of a standardized cancer registry examination. Continuing education is sometimes also required to maintain tumor registrar certification. The only way to know for sure what is required to become a tumor registrar in your community is to contact your local cancer registry center or inquire at a major hospital. In the meantime, seek training in medical coding, terminology, and health systems administration. The skills learned in these programs will help you in your tumor registry career and will also make you a more attractive applicant.

Tumor registrars must be able to quickly read and understand medical charts.
Tumor registrars must be able to quickly read and understand medical charts.

Nearly every country in the world maintains a database of cancer diagnoses, treatment successes, and fatalities. Keeping track of cancer cases in a given community can help national health services and government agencies better understand the disease and more adequately fund relevant research. When you decide to become a tumor registrar, you are taking part in the wider fight against cancer.

A tumor registrar conducts research that helps set current health policies and evaluate how the disease will be treated in the future.
A tumor registrar conducts research that helps set current health policies and evaluate how the disease will be treated in the future.

There are various gradations of tumor registries. The smallest registries are usually in hospitals and cancer clinics. Cancer registrars in these settings keep track of patient files and make updates to local records, which are sent to state or regional registries where they are sorted and forwarded to national databases. Tumor registrar jobs exist at every step along the way. Though the job duties are different in different places, the requirements are usually the same.

The treatment plan followed by each individual patient is recorded in a tumor registry.
The treatment plan followed by each individual patient is recorded in a tumor registry.

Most of the time, a college degree is not required to become a tumor registrar. This does not mean that one can become a tumor registrar with no training, however. Most of the time, registrar candidates need at least some experience in medical coding or systems administration. These sorts of courses are often offered in the evenings through mainstream universities, at community colleges, and even sometimes online.

The skills required to be a successful tumor registry employee are not usually difficult, but the information you will handle on the job may be complex. Tumor registrars must be able to quickly read and understand medical charts for cancer patients, many of which are peppered with highly specific medical terminology. Registrars are also required to make accurate categorizations with respect to patient diagnosis, prognosis, and recovery schedule. Most of the time, working as a tumor registrar requires a great deal of care with patient details and discretion when discussing specific cases.

In most jurisdictions, you must pass a general cancer registry certification exam in order to become a tumor registrar. The contents of the exam vary, but often include questions on specific cancer terms, recording and reporting procedures, and general medical ethics. Depending on the job, you can often become a tumor registrar on the condition that you will pass the relevant certification exam within a set amount of time after beginning work. Nevertheless, holding certification before looking for jobs will usually make you a stronger applicant.

Tumor registrars are generally very knowledgeable about the various forms of cancer treatment available to patients.
Tumor registrars are generally very knowledgeable about the various forms of cancer treatment available to patients.

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