Crushing Cancer by Crunching Numbers

By Nicole Magee, CTR, Cancer Registry Director

Every patient diagnosed with cancer is different. Their diagnosis and treatment is handled individually and their plan of care varies depending on their disease type and stage, age, general health and many other factors. With so many variables, how as a Cancer Center do we determine how we can best serve patients? I’m part of a team called the cancer registry department that uses the power of data to help physicians and other leaders make decisions that will benefit patients as a whole and create procedures for addressing the most complicated and rare diseases. Some of the information we collect and provide helps inform:

  • The kinds of clinical trials most needed
  • Disease-specific multidisciplinary teams that should be developed
  • How to advance treatments and make technology investment decisions
  • Develop prevention and early detection programs and implement other best practices

We analyze information related to patient care, including complete medical history, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship to identify trends. As one team member once stated, “It is our job to accurately tell a patient’s story about the type of cancer they have, how far it has spread and the treatments received.” One of the most exciting aspects of our job is when we can pinpoint something that is occurring in a number of patients and present it to physicians who can quickly translate it into an action directly benefitting patient care.

Cancer registry also looks at national statistics and provides information to oncologists and other specialists to aid in their local decision-making. The Cancer Center’s cancer registry department is a subcontractor of the Louisiana Tumor Registry, which means we collaborate with similar organizations throughout the state and contribute data to see if specific cancers are happening within a region, if patients are responding to a particular treatment and so much more.

And, of course, all of this occurs while keeping patients’ health information confidential and protected. As a matter of fact, the tumor registry has nine certified tumor registrars that hold the Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) credential, which sets the standard for professional excellence. Achieving formal education in this field ensures that data is expertly analyzed with the utmost respect for patient privacy.

I am proud to share that the Cancer Center’s cancer registry received a 2017 Silver Seal of Excellence Award from the Louisiana Tumor Registry, which recognizes timely reporting and high quality data submission. Our team was also involved, along with many other areas of the Cancer Center, in receiving the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American College of Surgeons, which is given to a small number of Cancer Centers with excellent outcomes and cancer registry practices, among other key criteria.

Together, the cancer registry department is like a team of detectives as we work to analyze information from an individual’s medical record to solve each patient’s diagnosis. Many people are surprised to know that we exist, and we’re just one of the teams that many patients never see, but we work behind the scenes to do our part to increase survivorship and lessen the burden of cancer for every patient the Cancer Center serves.