Cancer registries receive and collect data about cancer patients. There are two major types of cancer registries: population-based registries and hospital-based registries. Cancer registrars are the people who collect and report cancer data.

Population-based registries record all cases in a defined population (most frequently a geographical area such as a state or metropolitan area), with an emphasis on use of the data for epidemiology—the science used to find the causes of health outcomes and diseases in populations—and public health purposes. Population-based registries are designed to:

  • determine cancer patterns among various populations or sub-populations
  • monitor cancer trends over time
  • guide planning and evaluation of cancer control efforts
  • help prioritize health resource allocations
  • advance clinical, epidemiological, and health services research

Cancer surveillance programs such as the SEER Program use cancer statistics collected by population-based registries to monitor the distribution of cancer cases by sex, race/ethnicity, age, and other demographic factors.

Hospital-based registries maintain data on all patients diagnosed and/or treated for cancer at a particular healthcare facility. The focus of the hospital-based cancer registry is on improving patient care at that hospital. These registries also focus on administrative processes, clinical research, and professional education.

Special cancer registries collect and maintain data on a particular type of cancer. These registries often provide informational opportunities for those who want to learn more about specific cancer types and support for those who may suffer from it. For more information on types of registries, visit NCI's SEER Training Modules.

Cancer Registrars

Cancer registrars—also known as tumor registrars—are highly trained data management experts who collect and process cancer data. The primary responsibilities of the cancer registrar are to collect and consolidate accurate data on cancers diagnosed and/or treated within an institution or other defined population while making important decisions related to those activities.

Cancer registrars’ work goes far beyond simply collecting cancer data. They also work closely with physicians and other healthcare professionals, administrators, researchers, and healthcare planners to provide support for cancer program development, ensure compliance with reporting standards, and serve as a valuable resource for cancer information.

Next Section: Data Collection, Storage, & Management