My reverence for cancer registrars and appreciation for the role of cancer registries began well before I assumed the role as Chief Medical Officer for ERS three months ago, well before I began my involvement with the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual 25 years ago, well before I began my association with the Commission on Cancer 35 years ago. My infatuation with all aspects of cancer registries and the dedicated professionals who oversee them began when I was a medical student and a neophyte surgeon in training.
One of the first journal articles that I ever published used registry data to review the advances made in the treatment of Wilm’s Tumor in the pediatric population. This was in 1969! I was also fortunate to work with cancer registrars and the Connecticut State Cancer Registry as a young surgical resident and American Cancer Society Fellow at Yale in 1972.
My point in relating this ancient history is that opportunities for young physicians to work with registrars and registries can lead to a lifelong understanding and appreciation for what you and your colleagues do on a daily basis. As I relate frequently to physician groups regarding cancer staging, the TNM system is our “language of cancer” and when do we learn a language the easiest? When we are young! Similarly, the time to acquaint physicians with cancer registries is during medical school, residency and fellowship experiences. This is a mission that has given me an immense amount of joy during my academic surgical career. This is a message that I have also attempted to relate to physician audiences over the years.
Although many clinicians dedicated to cancer care may not have had an opportunity for association with cancer registries early in their careers, all is not lost. At the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, we have developed a strategy of inviting clinicians to give a presentation at the monthly meetings of our entire registry staff. The purpose of this exercise, ostensibly, is to provide education for our registrars covering all disciplines of cancer care. The hidden agenda, however, is to educate these clinicians as to the information that is contained in the cancer abstract and the vast amount of important material that is available to them in their particular specialty. The overarching goal is that these individual physicians then become disciples and carry this information back to their particular specialty sections.
There are so many opportunities for physicians to become involved in registry activities at every level of their careers. Whether you and your registry are housed in an academic training institution or a community hospital, remember that it is never too late to introduce clinicians to the incredible world of the cancer registry. Remember that I am also here to help you in the process!