Cancer registrar: A vital link in the chain of cancer care
August 04, 2017
Just about everyone has been touched by cancer – whether through a family member or a friend, or their own battle with the disease.
When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it sets a series of gears into motion. The patient is placed in a continuum of care that might include pathologists, oncologists, nurses, physical therapists, home care aides and many other health care providers.
Each caregiver oversees a portion of the patient’s treatment. But someone needs to track and chronicle the entire case. Someone must compile, analyze and report the countless data points attached to each patient’s diagnosis, treatment and outcome.
That job belongs to the cancer registrar – a medical information specialist who tracks a cancer patient’s case from diagnosis to death, even if the patient ultimately goes into remission or dies of an unrelated cause.
The registrar feeds the data into nationwide cancer registries, which physicians and medical researchers use to help identify trends such as life expectancy, the prevalence of specific cancers and the effectiveness of emerging treatments.
“Cancer registrars perform a vital function in the fight against cancer,” said Kathy Loflin, manager of the Health Information Management Technology program at Tri-C. “In addition to capturing the medical histories of patients from the time of diagnosis, they work closely with pathologists and oncologists to assist in the grading and staging of cancer cases, and help track metastasis of the disease.”
With the population aging and, in turn, the incidence of many types of cancers on the rise, the cancer registrar profession is growing. Demand for new registrars will continue to increase in the coming years.
“It’s a profession that appeals to people from many different walks of life,” Loflin said. “For example, a registered nurse recently enrolled in our program. She was in her 50s, getting into the later part of her career, and it was becoming too strenuous to lift patients in and out of beds. She wanted a career that was less physically demanding, but still in the medical field.”
Loflin also notes that cancer registrars frequently work out of home offices, which offers increased schedule flexibility and the ability to work for a health system or registry in another part of the country.
“It’s a career with high mobility and high employment potential,” Loflin said. “You can start out making $15 to $20 an hour as a new registrar. Supervisors can earn $50,000 a year. Whether you’re a nurse, x-ray technician, paramedic, physician assistant, or looking for a job out of college, this is an expanding field that can put your skills to use.”
In July, Cuyahoga Community College became one of only nine schools in the country to offer an accredited cancer registrar post-degree certificate program. Follow the link to learn more about the program, including contact information and frequently asked questions.