Recap of the California Cancer Registrars Association Annual Education Conference – Kim Rodriguez


Marketing Manager

Recap of the California Cancer Registrars Association

44th Annual Education Conference

November 8th – 10th, 2017

“Staying Balanced Through The Waves Of Change”

Submitted By: Kim A. Rodriguez, AAS, RHIT, CTR – I had the privilege of representing Registry Partners for the first time at the California Cancer Registrars Association’s annual educational conference, held along the beautiful California coast in San Diego’s Mission Valley community.  

It was wonderful to be able to network with local registrars, share information about our company, and absorb all the wonderful information provided in the well-rounded sessions for attendees.  Basking in the cooler weather and ocean breezes was an invited break from the hot Los Angeles weather.

If you are unfamiliar with the California Cancer Registry (CCR), there are ten regions, including the Greater Bay Area cancer registry (regions 1 and 8), Cancer Registry of Central California (region 2), Sacramento & Sierra cancer registry (region 3), Central Coast cancer registry (region 4), Desert Sierra Surveillance Program (region 5), Cancer Registry of Northern California (region 6), Cancer Registry of San Diego and Imperial Counties (region 7), Cancer Surveillance Program – Los Angeles (region 9), and the Orange County cancer registry (region 10).  The largest combined group of the many regions is the Cancer Registry of Greater California (CRGC), which captures all cancer patients diagnosed in 48 of California’s 58 counties!

The night before the conference kicked off, all registrants were invited to the CCRA’s suite to check in and pick up registration packets.  Included in the packets were wonderful tips on things to do around the area, such as the stopping into the San Diego Zoo, visiting the waterfront, enjoying amazing local cuisines and excellent shopping options.  An added bonus were the delicious finger foods and a selection of beverages to enjoy while registrants mixed and mingled.  It was an excellent opportunity for old friends to reconnect and for those of us who have spoken many times on the phone before, to finally connect face to face, before we became completely enthralled in the various conference lectures over the next two days.  

The conference theme was “Staying Balanced Through The Waves Of Change” … as we all know, we have many changes coming in 2018! Day 1 began with the keynote address from Clay Treska, which was a moving and motivating story of a young man who was heading down the wrong path in life, when fate led him to enlist in the Marine Corps.  Mr. Treska is a decorated 13-year combat veteran and former Department of Defense counterintelligence agent, who survived multiple combat tours … little did he know that his greatest enemy would be fighting cancer – not once but twice.  

After being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, he endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy, apheresis and an autologous stem cell transplant.  He never gave up on his dream of competing in an Ironman Triathlon World Championship.  During treatment, he somehow still had the strength to train!  A year later, he went on to complete the race in Hawaii, only eight weeks after being discharged from the hospital.  He has since completed several more Ironman triathlons to prove that while he was given a grim diagnosis, he can still complete what he has most wanted to do in life.  

Fast-forwarding in life, he became a leader in healthcare to ensure that all patients have the opportunity to receive high quality care and to achieve amazing outcomes and be healthier and stronger during and after treatment.  He has gone on to complete his undergrad and currently in graduate school for business administration, while still holding speaking engagements, advocating for patients, training, and being a published author – just a few of the things he’s accomplished in a couple of years.  

He has also built disease team specific patient flow models while spearheading the development of the Moores Cancer Center’s first Patient Navigation and Integrative Oncology programs at UC San Diego!  If you would like to learn more about Clay’s story, you can visit his website here.  Every speaker who presented after Mr. Treska said it was pretty hard to follow after hearing his inspirational story of trials and triumphs.  

We also heard from Dr. Catherine Yashar (radiation oncology) and Dr. Lachlan Macleay (pathology) who discussed where their respective medical specialties started and the advances available through modern medical technology and the change in terminology.  Additionally, Mignon Dryden of the CRGC went over the mandatory reporting for ePath and the upcoming changes.  She clarified that even if pathology labs are registered and reporting with ePath, that it does not meet the reporting needs for the cancer registry itself and participation is still required.  A user manual should be ready for publication in December.  We also heard from Cheryl Cina, a licensed certified genetics counselor, gave the last session of the day, and one that I certainly found quite interesting.  As the project director for breast programs at Registry Partners, genetics is a standard required (to be provided on site or by referral) for accreditation through the NAPBC, and I am often asked questions about attaining compliance for this standard.  Ms. Cina did a wonderful break down of the role a certified genetics counselor (CGC) plays and how they provide cancer risk assessments.  If testing is necessary (saliva or blood draw) then the CGC provides counseling tailored to the patient’s situation which may include cancer screenings and any necessary referrals.  

Ms. Cina presented a few misconceptions and truths related to cancer genetics.  The misconceptions she shared were: cancer on the father’s side of the family doesn’t count; ovarian cancer is not a factor in breast cancer risk; and the most important thing in the family history is the number of women with breast cancer.  Truths were: half of all women with hereditary risk inherited it from their father; ovarian cancer is an important sign of hereditary risk, although it is not always present and the age at onset of breast cancer is more important than the number of women with the disease.  

Day two of the conference was dedicated to our favorite impending topic – AJCC 8th edition!  It was so nice to have another native Texan in the building, as both AJCC sessions were led by Denise Harrison, an old friend of mine through the Texas Tumor Registrars Association for many years.  If you have not had the opportunity to hear Ms. Harrison present, she makes any subject a delight, even one as daunting as the AJCC 8th edition and all the changes to come!  She did share with the group that about a week after the conference was over, that AJCC was going to be releasing an entire new breast cancer chapter, which will be available for download here.

AJCC will not be printing any additional 8th edition books until the first batch of manuals printed has sold out.  One of the 8th edition changes is the inclusion of prognostic factors, which can be confusing, especially after viewing the breast cancer staging grid for the various combinations of ER, PR and Her2. But fear not, Ms. Harrison shared with the group a fantastic tool she has found to be very helpful.  It is the cancer staging calculator TNM8 app that you can download to your smart phone. I did some research, and it is available in the iTunes app store and Google store ranging anywhere from free to $9.99.  The app was developed by the Integrated Cancer Network, and many of the attendees quickly pulled out their phones to download the app while the information was fresh in our minds.  

Ms. Harrison also reminded the group that you can visit the AJCC website and participate in many of the free educational webinars, and encouraged us to be sure to stay on top of all the upcoming changes by reading all the information we currently have available to help make this a seamless transition.  

Registry Partners raffled off two $50 Visa gift cards at the conference and our lucky winners were Nora Noriega of Antelope Valley Hospital (left) and Debbie Gibson of UCLA (right).  Congratulations, ladies!  

Nora Noriega of Antelope Valley Hospital (left) Kim Rodriguez of Registry Partners (middle) and Debbie Gibson of UCLA (right).