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Cancer registry education

Last post 04-27-2019, 8:47 PM by Dawn Gaskey. 27 replies.
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  •  01-14-2008, 9:26 PM

    Cancer registry education

    I'm poised to dive into AHIMA's CRM course, but before I invest that kind of time and money, am hoping to get a clue as to whether this is a good choice. We keep hearing how registry is a wide-open field with a great future, but there is a dearth of information on exactly how to get into the field. I've scoured the web and found the NCRA site (and the FL branch), but it appears as though I have to actually be enrolled before I can sign on as a student member and find mentoring. I've tried emailing their membership contacts and have received no response. I've found zero newsgroups or message boards to search for answers and even here, I've found only hints at how great the field is, nothing specific to help prospective students. Is the field so young that no one's bothered to create a real online presence? The internet defines everything these days and it seems no wonder registrars are so hard to come by if they're not availing themselves of today's technology. . .

     I see that there are very few places offering CRM education and few of those that offer online courses. Given the choices, I think I prefer AHIMA's to going through some community college course across the country (irks me to have to pay thousands more for a course simply because I'm not a resident--there are none available in FL), but my big question is this:  Is a certificate through AHIMA something employers will readily accept? Yes, it's accredited, but given the farce AAMT (whatever they call themselves now) has made of the MT school credential, I'm wary of tossing tuition somewhere without a little validation from someone who actually knows whether this accreditation means something.

    I'm not wavering on the field and I've already proven I have the self discipline to do an online course. I guess I'm simply looking for someone who's either gone through the AHIMA course and found success in the field or an employer who can tell me that this course is one they are glad to see in a prospective hire. 


  •  01-15-2008, 1:56 PM

    Re: Cancer registry education


    I went thru the AHIMA program to obtain my Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT).  But to my knowledge, it does not matter what method you choose to obtain your Certificated Tumor Registrar (CTR) credentials.   To my knowledge what really matters is the fact that you are certified.  

    The website for eligibility routes for taking the certification test can be located on the web site

    I am sorry, no one responded to your inquiry about our profession.  It is a growing profession and the need for registrars is growing with the workforce aging and the need for reporting is increasing.  The CTR certificate does mean something if you choose Tumor Registry as your  profession. 

    With a CTR credentials you can manage your own department, work contract, or be self employed.  All hospitals want CTR's in their department and a staff CTR is mandatory as one of the American College of Surgeons, Commission on Cancer (ACoS,COC) requirements for an approved cancer program.  I think all contract companies require CTR.  Working for a contract company you can work from home or travel.  You can also be self employed as some friends of mine have contracted with small hospitals to do their state reporting which cancer is required by law to be reported in the state where I live.  

    The Tumor Registry profession has been good to me.   I do a variety of task; collect data then turn the data into information, we follow these patients until they die, so we get to see how effective our treatment was, look at trends and referral patterns, work on performance improvement studies, do survival analysis and monitor the ACoS, COC requirements to ensure we meet the standards.  My suggestion would be to volunteer in a Tumor Registry (any amount of hours your schedule allows) to make sure you will find the profession rewarding.  The registry has become very appealing to many because we usually work flex hours and many of us work from home, but the job is what I fell in love with....... even before I started working in my pajamas. 

    I hope I have answered some of your questions, Linda  





  •  01-15-2008, 4:50 PM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    This is helpful, Linda! I'm coming from a background of acute care transcription and am actually 99% certain this is the way I want to go. I've been telecommuting for years and though a 10-second commute has its perks, I'm kind of thrilled at the idea of having a "real" job where I can get out of the house and interact with actual people again. As speech recognition and offshoring have driven our wages steadily downward across the board, it's obvious that skilled MTs are not valued and there's not much of a future for MT at all. I think cost has become the be-all and end-all and clients don't care so much about quality as long as they're paying bottom dollar and getting fast turnaround. Not much incentive to lure qualified people to the field as it's become a mere low-paying production job, rather than a career.

    I know I belong in the medical field, but would probably not be so enthused about coding or billing (more left brain). CTR seems to offer the same kind of challenges I currently enjoy (I think puzzle-solving is a common denominator) and I like the variety of work available. I have DLed the self-study materials from SEER and gone through many of the abstracting exercises and it feels like it would be a really easy transition. Bonus that it's a field doctors might actually respect.

    I really didn't expect anyone to have a bad review of AHIMA's course as it's accredited by NCRA, the prerequisite courses are accredited by ACE as college-equivalent credits, and completion would meet the criteria to sit for the CTR exam. I suspect if I approach it in the same "failure is not an option" way I came to transcription, I will make it work.

    Thanks so much for your help, Linda!

  •  01-16-2008, 12:15 AM

    Re: Cancer registry education


    I've worked in cancer registry going on three years now and I can't say enough good about it. As for the AHIMA site I have recommended this route to a close friend and also for my own daughter. I didn't take the course myself, but entered the profession through an RHIT degree and two years working in the registry. The AHIMA course allows you to concentrate on what is necessary in the cancer registry and requires just 160 hours working in the registry and then you get to sit for the CTR exam. If you're comfortable with distance learning you should do just fine! Good luck!

    Lori Adams, RHIT, CTR
  •  01-17-2008, 7:22 AM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    Thanks, Lori. I've got my first text on the way and am starting the first course next week. I think this is going to be a fun transition for me and am excited to finally take action.  :-)
  •  02-07-2008, 8:54 AM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    Jeanne, I see you are getting some responses.  I can only add that I find cancer registry an exciting field. I took the "old" route of learning on the job, and after 2 years was eligible to take the certification exam.  I worked as a coder in an acute care hospital for 11 years and had much of the background education.  The exam is challenging.  I hope you find as much of a career satisfaction as I do.
    Jane Russell, CTR
  •  02-14-2008, 9:26 AM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    To sit for the CTR do you need work experience?  I find the NCRA website very confusion when it comes to figuring out what you need to sit for the CTR.

    I am a coder and am looking to compliment my career with the CTR.  I have worked at a hospital that did "passive" reporting.

    Any help would be great.



  •  02-14-2008, 9:33 AM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    Hi Stacy,

       I'm a writer with Advance. My co-worker did an article recently on the path to a CTR, and I know a few things are changing with the credential. You can find the article here. Hope this helps!


  •  02-14-2008, 11:50 AM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    Hi Stacy. ADVANCE also has a relatively new column called Registry Perspectives, and the current article is about the CTR exam. You can find it here: Also, at the bottom of that article you'll find the archive of all the Registry Perspectives columns and some of those may be of help as well. Good luck!

    Lisa A. Algeo, editor

  •  02-14-2008, 2:44 PM

    Re: Cancer registry education



      Eligibility Route Changes -- 2008, 2009, 2010

    Eligibility Routes 1 and 2 Requirements Beginning:
    Route 1 Experience: Minimum two years full-time (24 months or 3,900 hours) or equivalent experience in the Cancer Registry field.

    Education: Two semesters/3 quarters of college-level courses in Human Anatomy and/or Physiology.

    Experience: Minimum two years full-time (24 months or 3,900 hours) or equivalent experience in the Cancer Registry field.

    Education: Twelve credit hours of college-level course education that includes 2 semesters/3 quarters of Human Anatomy and/or Physiology, 1 semester of Medical Science/Biology*, plus 1 semester in Medical Terminology.

    Route 2 No Change from 2007 Experience: Successful completion of 160 hours of work practicum in a CTR-staffed Cancer Registry (may be part of a NCRA-approved program curriculum).

    Education: NCRA-Accredited Associate Degree Program
    Successful completion of an NCRA-Accredited Formal Education Program AND successful completion of a minimum of an Associate’s degree or equivalent (4 semesters/6 quarters).

    No Change as of 2009

    * The following are examples of courses that will meet the Medical Science/Biology criteria: Human biology, General biology, Fundamentals of biology, Introduction of biology, Cell biology, Molecular biology.

    This is not a complete listing of courses that may meet the eligibility criteria. The Council on Certification reserves the right to review individual courses as they pertain to eligibility.

    Experience Clarification: All work experience must be met by the application deadline. There is not an expiration in accumulating the necessary hours, and can be achieved with volunteer hours, or full- or part-time employment.

    Education Clarification: Specific coursework must be completed (not audited) with a passing grade; and "college-level course" is determined as coursework eligible for college credit.

    Routes 3, 4, and 5 have not been changed:

    Route 3 Experience: Minimum one year full-time (12 months or 1,950 hours) or equivalent experience in the Cancer Registry field.

    Education: Successful completion of a minimum of an Associate’s degree [or equivalent (4 semesters/6 quarters)] in an approved college level curriculum in a recognized allied health field as determined by NCRA’s Council on Certification.

    Route 4 Experience: Minimum one year full-time (12 months or 1,950 hours) or equivalent experience in the Cancer Registry field.

    Education: Successful completion of a minimum of an Associate’s degree [or equivalent (4 semesters/6 quarters)] that includes 2 semesters of Human Anatomy and/or Physiology.

    License/Credential: Attainment of a license or certification in a recognized allied health field as determined by NCRA’s Council on Certification.

    Route 5 Experience: Minimum one year full-time (12 months or 1,950 hours) or equivalent experience in the Cancer Registry field.

    Education: Successful completion of a Master’s level or higher college level curriculum in a recognized allied health field as determined by NCRA’s Council on Certification.

    Allied Health Field Clarification: Typically includes 2 semesters of Human Anatomy and/or Physiology.


    The above comes from the NCRA's Council on Certification website Eligibility Routes to sit for the CTR exam.

  •  02-25-2008, 3:19 PM

    Re: Cancer registry education


    Just taking the time to let you know that our Cancer Information Management program is online.  Yes, we are a community college located in eastern Iowa but I have many students in our program from around the country, including Florida.

    Our tuition for online students is $135. per credit hour no matter what state you reside in....and our program is accredited by NCRA. 

    Communication and more communication is the key to any online instructional program.  Our program also gives CIM students the ability to actually abstract into a cancer registry software system remotely within their online class.

    Something that you don't state is whether you already have an associates degree.  All of the Certificate programs in cancer registry will not be enough for you to gain eligibility to sit for the CTR if you do not already have associate's degree.  For example:  If you had only Associates degree now in Business you would need to take medical science supporting courses....and other supporting courses plus core CIM courses which would probably take you longer than 2009 to complete. In 2010, CTR eligibility under Route 2 Formal Education will require an AAS degree in allied health in addition to CIM courses.  So unless you already have an AAS degree in Allied health I would not get into a program that was only certificate. 

    Our CIM program has both tracks....Diploma track for those with Allied Health AAS degree completed and AAS degree for those who need to complete their AAS.

    If you would like more information you can contact me at or call at 563-441-4157 

    Barbara Foster, RHIA, CTR



    Barbara A. Foster, RHIA, CTR
  •  03-04-2008, 4:39 PM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    Thanks for the info, Barbara. I'm presently enrolled in the AHIMA course, but will surely look into this if I find I need the degree. I understood from a previous post that we have until September to sneak under the wire without having to meet the degree requirement, which means I'm going to have to really bust a move or gear up for a longer haul.  I actually have over three years of college (generally lacking a clear direction, majoring in everything from social work to business to fine arts) and should probably look into how my credits might count for something, assuming they're not too old and dusty to even consider anymore. ;)
  •  07-10-2011, 12:45 PM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    Hey Jeanne,

    Just the way you started going about for CRM, I do have now. Hope you can give in your suggestions on how the speciality courses were? My biggest concern is whether am I allowed to do this from outiside US? Do help me with your suggestions.  

  •  01-18-2012, 1:22 PM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    Very good reply.  LOL, I was looking for a "like" button.
  •  08-26-2013, 4:12 PM

    Re: Cancer registry education

    Hi Jeanne.  I just found your post and realize it was several years ago but was hoping you could give us an update on whether you pursued the AHIMA CRM program and how it turned out for you.  I am also looking into the program but a bit hesitant to invest more money in education when it is almost impossible to get your foot in the door anywhere without the required "two years of experience." I am very interested in the Tumor Registry and feel it would be a good fit with my background, education, and skills.  One area of the web site indicated a requirement for 160 hours of work practicum in a CTR-staffed cancer registry, and another area on the web site said that this was not a requirement (for certificate, not degree).  Did you have to meet that requirement, and if so, did you have to just get lucky and find a facility that was willing to take you in and let you do an internship?  Any update you could provide would be very helpful.  Thank you!
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