By Katie Napiwocki
Cancer Registrar, Ministry Health Care
As cancer rates have grown prevalent over the years, it’s likely safe to say that each of our lives have been touched by cancer in one way or another – whether we’ve supported a friend or family member through the cancer treatment process, or hold a personal experience with a cancer diagnosis. Upon asking individuals, “Who is part of the cancer care team?” the words cancer registrar may not readily meet the lips of those who are familiar with cancer treatment, but cancer registrars play a unique and pivotal role in the background scenery of cancer care as we know it today.
Within the scope of healthcare, cancer registry professionals work with collection, analysis and reporting of essential information about each new cancer diagnosis that a patient undergoes. This process begins with capturing certain aspects of the patient’s history, diagnosis, treatment route, and health status. Once gathered, medical facilities and central registries are then required by law to report the data to the state and federal government which includes the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The collective information is available to researchers, healthcare providers and public health professionals. Cancer is currently the only reportable chronic disease. By following cancer cases, we are able to illuminate meaningful data that leads to improved efforts in cancer prevention and screening programs, monitoring the effectiveness of current cancer treatments, and paving the road to further avenues of cancer research in hopes of mapping out the destination of a cure – along the way, increasing quality of life and options for those coping with a cancer diagnosis.
As breast cancer awareness month floats in with the falling leaves of October, we are briskly reminded of the importance of the endeavors surrounding cancer care improvement within our communities and population. Aside from skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 in every 8 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime. In 2012, female breast cancer cases in Wisconsin totaled 4,309. While men are of lower risk for developing breast cancer, male breast cancer can occur and cases in Wisconsin totaled 50 in 2012. In the span of 2008-2012, female breast cancer cases reached 127 in Lincoln County, 191 in Oneida County, and 134 in Vilas County. Over recent decades, breast cancer death rates have been declining and this is much attributed to enhanced awareness, early detection of the cancer by screenings, and improvement in treatment.
Cancer registry is an ever evolving field committed to uplifting the health and wellness of communities by working together toward a collective goal of alleviating cancer burden. The 2015 National Cancer Registrar Week was themed as the lighthouse in a storm of change, and this also rings true in the lives of cancer patients. A cancer diagnosis reaches every corner of a person’s life, often bringing about squalls of change, emotions, hardships and difficult decisions. The compassionate and skilled cancer care teams at Ministry Health Care are here to help patients and their families weather the storm.
American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc. 2013.
National Cancer Registrars Association (2014). Registrars in Action: Improve Public Health. Retrieved from http://ncra-usa.org
Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Office of Health Informatics. Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH) data query system, http://dhs.wisconsin.gov/wish/. Cancer Module, accessed 9/14/2015.