Expert Health Articles

The Role of a Certified Tumor Registrar

What is a certified tumor registrar (CTR)? Do they register tumors? In a sense, yes. Certified tumor registrars work in a cancer registry, with a primary responsibility to create a data file for all patients with a new cancer diagnosis. Information recorded includes demographics, medical history, tumor-specific characteristics, stage, treatment and patient outcomes. This information is submitted to both state and national databases where the data is aggregated and used to calculate incidence and survival rates, evaluate treatment efficacy and for research to develop treatment guidelines, staging systems and identify necessary changes for screening/prevention guidelines.

At the local level, some CTRs are part of an oncology community outreach team, and trends in cancer are monitored to identify potential areas of need for screening and prevention programs in the community. A cancer registry is also a resource for a health system to help in physician recruitment efforts, identify gaps in resources and the development of quality improvement initiatives and oncology program goals.

In addition to data collection, the cancer registry coordinates a tumor board, which is a multidisciplinary approach to developing a care plan for patients. Medical professionals who participate in each tumor board include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, palliative care, oncology-certified pharmacist, oncology dietitian, certified genetic counselors, administrative leadership, tumor registrars and nurses who specialize in research, care navigation, medical and radiation oncology. The multidisciplinary meeting improves medical decision-making, outcomes and the overall patient experience.

The cancer registry also provides oversight if the affiliated health system has received Commission on Cancer (CoC) accreditation. This accreditation includes standards that promote comprehensive cancer care addressed across the spectrum beginning from prevention/screening to include diagnostics, treatment and patient outcomes, including survivorship and end-of-life care. All CoC-accredited facilities are also able to access the National Cancer Database (NCDB), which allows an oncology program to benchmark itself against other programs in the nation, state and region, in defined quality measures, to ensure the surrounding community receives the highest quality oncology care.

Jamie Thompson, CTR
Tumor Registry Program Administrator
The Armes Family Cancer Care Center