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Registry Perspectives

How to Build a Successful Career in Cancer Registry

Cancer registrars ensure that timely, accurate, and complete data are maintained on all types of cancer diagnosed and treated within a health care institution or within a defined population. These data are then used to inform a wide variety of public health decisions and provide rich information for cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention programs.  

The National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) offers a variety of educational programs to assist cancer registrars in crafting successful careers. Whether just beginning or seeking ways to grow professionally, NCRA provides cancer registrars with lifelong learning through its formal education and training programs that are designed to assist registrars in preparing to earn and maintain the Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) credential.

The CTR credential demonstrates a requisite knowledge and professional competence needed within the cancer registry. It is nationally recognized in the recruitment and retention of registry personnel. NCRA's certification board - the Council on Certification - develops and administers the CTR exam. The first exam was offered by NCRA in 1983. More than 5,000 individuals have attained the CTR credential.

Formal Education Program
NCRA accredits formal education programs to ensure students who successfully complete the programs have fulfilled the eligibility requirements to take the CTR exam. All accredited programs have undergone extensive review by NCRA's Formal Education Program Review Committee. Several can be completed online, providing distance learning opportunities for students who do not have a program in their area. Accredited programs are offered through: the American Health Information Management Association (online program), Darton College (online program), Davidson County Community College, Owens Community College (online program), San Jacinto College North, Santa Barbara City College (online program), and Scott Community College (online program). To learn more and to access direct links to these schools, go to

CTR Exam Prep Resources
NCRA offers a host of tools to prepare students to take the CTR exam, including an in-person CTR Exam Prep Workshop, CTR Exam Readiness Webinar Series, and the CTR Exam Study Guide. In 2013, NCRA will offer a CTR Exam online practice test and a CTR Exam Prep online course.    

NCRA's CTR Exam Prep Workshop is taught by knowledgeable and experienced instructors who have designed an agenda that provides a comprehensive review of all exam topics with time allotted to address attendees' questions and concerns. The one-and-a-half-day workshop is held in the weeks prior to each exam. Topics include:

• Registry organization and operations
• Concepts of abstracting, coding and follow-up
• Application of coding and staging principles
• Multiple primary and histology.

Registration also includes the CTR Exam Readiness Webinar Series. NCRA's CTR Exam Readiness Webinar series is offered prior to each exam, and the topics are designed to provide candidates with the knowledge needed to take the exam with confidence. Subject areas include computers, statistics and epidemiology, and CTR exam tips. The CTR exam dates for 2013 are March 9-23 and Sept. 7-21.

Maintaining the CTR Credential
Cancer registrars maintain the CTR credential by completing 20 hours of continuing education (CE) credits every two years. NCRA provides a variety of ways for CTRs to earn CEs, including its annual educational conference, webinars, and quizzes in NCRA's peer-reviewed Journal of Registry Management. Upcoming webinars include the two remaining in a four-part strategic abstracting series: "Skin and Melanoma" Nov. 14 with presenter Sharmen Dye, CTR, and "Breast" Jan. 9 with presenter SuAnn McFadden, CTR. 

A professional development webinar series is scheduled for winter/spring 2013. Topics include "Using Your Data: Interpretation and Presentation" Feb. 13 and "What Makes a Presentation: Statistical Concepts, Terminology, and Methodologies" March 13.

For questions on NCRA's Formal Education Program and its training opportunities, contact Mary Maul at or 703-299-6640, ext. 314. For questions on the CTR credential, including eligibility requirements, e-mail or phone 703-299-6640, ext. 312.

Mary Maul is education manager for the National Cancer Registrars Association.

Registry Perspectives Archives

I would like more information about the CTR examination emailed to me. Thank you

Christine G.  Garcia,  Medical Transcriptionist,  Victor Valley HospitalOctober 31, 2012
Victorville, CA


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