How to Become a Cancer Registrar

How to Become a Cancer Registrar

Cancer registries are organized collections of data related to cancer and tumor conditions. Cancer registrars are trained professionals that collect and organize medical data of patients with cancerous conditions.

What does a cancer registrar do?

Cancer registrars maintain and organize databases at the national, regional, and healthcare facility level on information of cancer patients. They examine pathology reports and patient medical records to obtain data for use in cancer management programs. They ensure healthcare policies are complying with government regulations. They also allocate diagnosis and treatment codes for many different cancerous conditions and benign tumors. They update entries with new information such as the health of a patient and additional treatments. Cancer registrars also conduct follow-ups every year on all patients listed in the registry to gather information about treatment, recovery, and survival. Public health organizations and physicians use the information obtained by cancer registrars to calculate success rates of many different types of treatment, survivor rates, identify areas with high occurrences of certain cancers, and identify possible clinical drug trial participants.

What kind of training does a cancer registrar need?

Cancer registrars typically need at least an associate degree. The National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) approves a few certificate programs. Prospective cancer registrars typically complete courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, cancer registry procedures, cancer program management, biostatistics and epidemiology, database record management, and cancer data abstracting. Some employers provide intensive on the job training for new cancer registrars. Many cancer registrars obtain professional certification from the National Cancer Registrars Association. Certification requirements include minimum education and experience and passing a written examination. Cancer registrars must complete regular continuing education to maintain their certification and keep up with the advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a cancer registrar?

Employment of cancer registrars is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 18% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased prevalence of cancerous conditions will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be very good especially for cancer registrars with advanced education and extensive experience. Many job openings will result from the need to replace cancer registrars that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do cancer registrars make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of cancer registrars earn annual salaries between $37,619 and $47,291. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $52,028 (2).

A career as a cancer registrar is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in maintaining a variety of cancer registries. Cancer registrars must have a solid understanding of the different types and treatments of cancer and the essential skills to maintain a variety of cancer data. Accuracy, organization, database proficiency, and detail orientation are essential characteristics. They must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and ability to interact with a variety of patients, professionals, and the healthcare community.

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