As a Cancer Registrar – Change is Inevitable


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By: Patricia Fordham, CTR – While trying to abstract a 2018 diagnosed case thus far this year raise your hand if you feel like the cartoon characters in the picture below.

I know I do!   This picture should also depict these two struggling fellas and their cart at the bottom of a mountain looking towards the top wondering how and when they would ever reach the top.  We are over half way through the year and feel like we’re still sitting at the bottom of the mountain looking up towards the top, unable to complete a 2018 diagnosed case completely, accurately and on time.

Change is inevitable.  For the 2018 diagnosis year the change seems to be mountainous.  As Cancer Registrar’s we have seen quite a few changes occur over the last decade or so.  We were introduced to and educated on Collaborative Stage and Site Specific Factors to then be told this system did not meet the needs that were thought to be expected.  There have been AJCC staging changes and changes to COC Standards. We get comfortable and knowledgeable about the task at hand and boom, the standard setters realize a change is needed.

Think back to the day when an abstract was one page and hand written.  Man, those were the good ole days! If that were still true today how much of our data would truly be used?  How much of our data would be used by researchers and clinicians to conduct studies to see what treatments work and what treatments can be improved upon?  How much of our data would be used to educate the public about the importance of cancer screenings? Probably not much!

I think one positive spin on all the changes we are facing for 2018 is we’re all in this together, learning and sharing information about the changes that are being put before us.  We’re seeing more education webinars being offered to help provide guidance on these changes. We’re talking back and forth with each other to figure out the changes and what the standard setters are looking for and expect.

In the end our work as cancer registrars is collecting and entering accurate usable data for clinicians and researchers to use to help fight the fight for individuals diagnosed with cancer.  As daunting as 2018 has been, in the end the data being collected is for the cancer patient. As cancer patients fight hard and strong every day to get through their diagnosis and treatment we will work hard every day to enter the data needed to help find a cure for cancer.  Hopefully soon in 2018 we will be able to replace the square wheels on the cart with the round wheels in the cart and make it to the top of the mountain.

Patricia submitted this article to the Georgia Cancer Registrars Association as an entry for the annual educational scholarship that is awarded to a GATRA member each year.  The scholarship winner receives an all expense paid trip to the annual state meeting. Members who submitted articles were scored (after de-identification of articles) by a group of three judges who used the following criteria: 1) adherence to topic 2) compliance with format 3) use of original ideas and/or concepts, coherence and completeness.  

Patricia’s article was one of four submitted and she received the scholarship! She will attend the GATRA annual meeting which is being held in conjunction with the South Carolina Cancer Registrars Association, November 5-7, 2018 in Charleston, SC.  

Great job Patricia and Congratulations on winning this year’s GATRA scholarship!

Photo by Kasuma on Pexels