2018 is a Major Change Year for the Cancer Registry Profession

Cancer Registry Changes

By Jennifer Rohleder BS CTR
SME for Oncology Data Management and Education

“Many things will change in this job, but the human anatomy won’t. That is a good place to start.” This is the advice I received when I asked about learning the cancer registry profession. I found this to be reasonable and it was a good place to start! My mentor was correct; there were many changes over the years. I learned and adapted as required. Then I learned that specific central nervous system sites were defined as paired organs for cases diagnosed January 1, 2004 and later. Had everyone’s brain changed starting January 1, 2004? How can this be?

I heard similar outbursts of confusion and frustration while in attendance at the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) meeting this past week. Cytology is now pathologically significant? A physician and a CTR may derive a differing stage for the same patient. The physician is staging the specific patient and the CTR must collect the data “by the book” to keep the data clean for outcomes and analysis? How can this be?

By day two, I settled in and the pieces of the puzzle started to come together much like they do every few years when we have a “major change year.” The fear and frustration fade away and the hard work begins.


  • Learn the reasoning behind the specific changes; this will make incorporation of the modifications in daily work more reasonable.
  • Find a subject matter expert to aid in the thought transformation required to put the changes into practice.
  • Facilitate constructive conversations with your peers to successfully overcome the barriers that create knowledge deficits.
  • Be patient with yourself and others. Errors are opportunities for education and improvement!