What is a Certified Tumor Registrar?

If you are looking into medical records work, you might be interested in the work of a certified tumor registrar (CTR). A CTR is a specialist in the field of health information technicians. Discover more about what a CTR does and how one can become certified for this important job.

What a CTR Does

Accurate, accessible and secure information is an underrated but highly important element of good healthcare delivery. A certified tumor registrar works in hospitals or cancer treatment centers to gather histories of cancer patients. The information they compile on treatment, diagnosis and patient history serves as an important resource for cancer researchers and those who work in public health. The data is used, according to the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA), to help monitor and improve cancer treatments and work toward better screening programs and cancer prevention. The data gathered can also be instrumental in helping to provide better follow-up to cancer patients.

Cancer registries are maintained at different levels: institutional, in which a registrar maintains information on all patients seen at that facility; central registries, which maintain information on cancer patients within a given regional or area; and special purpose registries, in which information is collected about a specific type of cancer. Cancer registrars such as CTRs may work on these different types of registries.

How to Become a CTR

The CTR credential was established by the NCRA in 1983. One can take several routes to becoming a CTR, generally different combinations of education and work experience. In order to be eligible to take the certification exam, you may complete an associate’s degree in Cancer Registry or Information Management (CRM or CIM) from a program accredited by the NCRA, and also do a 160 hour practicum. If you have an associate’s degree in another area, you can still take this route by completing the practicum along with an accredited CRM or CIM certificate program. An associate’s degree of any kind, including credits in anatomy and physiology, and 1,950 hours of cancer registry work experience would also make you eligible to sit the exam. The test is a 250 multiple-choice question exam given in 2 parts, and can be taken at any of the 300 testing locations throughout the U.S.

Once you have your credential, you must finish 20 hours of continuing education credits every two years as well as pay an annual fee.

Job Outlook

According to the NCRA, by the beginning of 2015, all Commission on Cancer accredited hospitals must have CTR provided case abstracts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts very strong growth between 2012 and 2022 for health information technicians. Those two facts would seem to bode well for the decision to become a CTR. Over 5,000 people have received the CTR credential, and it appears to be a growing field.

More importantly perhaps, anyone who does this work has the satisfaction of knowing that he or she is a crucial link in a chain of education and support that is vital to helping cancer patients today and possibly in the future. If you become a certified tumor registrar, you will have the opportunity to put your careful data keeping skills to a truly good use.