What does a Cancer Registrar do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 March 2020
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A cancer registrar is someone who manages a cancer registry, a collection of carefully collated data about cancers. Many nations have cancer registries, and individual hospitals and research facilities may also employ cancer registrars to track trends unique to their institutions. Cancer registries are very useful tools for people who are interested in cancer, ranging from public health officials who want to pinpoint areas where additional cancer screening would be helpful to patients who want to know how rare their cancers are, and what the survival rate is.

Cancer registrars have several skill sets. They are usually knowledgeable about statistics, as part of their job can involve the analysis and discussion of statistics, or they may need to work with statisticians who find it helpful to have data presented in particular ways. They are also well trained about cancer, being aware of the many kinds of cancer, how cancer is staged, and what kind of treatments are involved. Cancer registrars must also be skilled recordkeepers, and they must learn the diagnostic codes associated with cancer.

When a cancer registrar receives a new record, he or she abstracts and organizes the data so that it will be easy to find. Cancer registrars also routinely update older entries with new information, such as data about additional treatments, the patient's health, and so forth. Upkeep of the database is accomplished by working with physicians and patients.


When people access the data in a cancer registry, the cancer registrar makes sure that personally identifying information is stripped, so that researchers just get basic demographic data like the age, gender, race, and location of the patient, along with information about the type of cancer, the stage, which treatments were used, and how effective treatment was for the patient. The cancer registrar has also carefully vetted each entry to confirm that it belongs in a database; for example, a hospital wouldn't keep records on patients who were treated at other facilities.

Using a cancer registry, researchers can look for patterns, such as unusually high rates of cancer which may be linked with environmental toxins, or high rates of a screenable cancer caught in late stages which indicate that a population could benefit from more outreach and preventative screening. A cancer registrar can help to identify these trends, and keep track of records to keep an eye out for specific areas of interest to researchers. People who are interested in this career can take certification programs and exams which will qualify them to practice as cancer registrars.


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Post 3

Cancer Registrars can report to several different departments in a hospital. Some report to Medical Records/HIM, some are under Oncology Services in general, some are under Radiation Oncology. It depends on the size of the facility and its structure.

As far as external data reporting, the data is reported to state cancer registries and sometimes to the National Cancer Database.

Post 2

Who does the cancer registrar report to?

Post 1

When was this written? I'm doing a report on this subject. I need it for my MLA citation.

Moderator's reply: This article was written in 2009.

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