CTR Exam: An Update

Vol. 18 •Issue 3 • Page 12
Registry Perspectives

CTR Exam: An Update

Find out how you can sit for the certified tumor registrar examination.

Across America and Canada, and even in some foreign countries, cancer registry professionals are preparing to take the certified tumor registrar (CTR) certification examination.

In recent years, the qualifications for taking the examination have changed and will continue to change through the year 2010. The eligibility rules for Route 1 are as follows:

  • In 2008, two semesters or three quarters of college-level courses in human anatomy and/or physiology and 2 years of full-time or equivalent experience in the cancer registry field are required to sit for the examination.
  • In 2009, the minimum requirements to sit for the examination will require a minimum of 2 years full-time or equivalent experience in the cancer registry field and two semesters or three quarters of college level human anatomy and physiology, one semester of college-level medical science/biology, and one semester of college-level medical terminology.
  • In 2010 eligibility Route 1 will be eliminated. All candidates for the examination will be required to have at least an associate degree or equivalent in an allied health field with courses that include the above mentioned for 2009, and apply under the remaining Routes. There are many National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA)-approved educational programs that now offer or soon will offer associate degree programs with an emphasis on cancer data management. A listing of these programs can be found on the NCRA Web site www.ncra-usa.org. Almost all of the programs are online.

    It should be noted that all the courses must be taken for college credit and the student must achieve a passing grade. It also should be noted that cancer registrars who are not already CTRs but have been working in the field for a number of years, or even those who have unsuccessfully taken the exam in the past, are still required to meet the new qualifications to sit for the examination.

    These changes are implemented by the NCRA Council on Certification as recommended by a study commissioned by NCRA in 2005, in part to study the requirements for CTR certification.

    In preparing to take the CTR examination, candidates have many resources. The Council on Certification Web site, www.ctrexam.org, lists the standard resources as well as many others. For the 2008 examinations to be given March 1 through March 15 and Sept. 13 through Sept. 27, the standard resources include the following: The American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer–Cancer Program Standards 2004 Revised Edition (released March 2006); American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer–Facility Oncology Registry Data Standards (FORDS) Revised for 2008; American Joint Committee of Cancer Staging (AJCC) Manual, Sixth Edition; Cancer Registry Management, Principles and Practices, Second Edition; and Collaborative Staging Manual and Coding Instructions, Version 1.03.00. This year, for the first time, general concepts of SEER’s 2008 Multiple Primary and Histology Coding Rules will be tested in the closed-book session.

    Candidates for the CTR examination should take advantage of all the resources listed as well as others. The examination is computer-based. Candidates go to a designated site as close to their home as possible and take the proctored examination, which lasts a total of 4.5 hours. The first 3 hours are closed-book and cover 200 questions. The last 1.5 hours consists of 50 questions that are open-book and require many of the references listed above. On the Council on Certification Web site, the candidate can even take a sample computer test. The passing score is 175 out of 250 questions. After completing the examination, all candidates will receive an unofficial report on whether the examinee has passed or not; the official results arrive usually within 6 weeks. That is the time the successful candidate can proudly call her/ himself a CTR.

    There are many CTR examination preparation courses held across the country. NCRA conducted its semi-annual preparation workshop on Feb. 9-10 in Baltimore. The workshop included a free Webinar session with the presenters following the workshop. Because the number of enrollees is limited, this was a chance for everyone to get questions answered. In addition, the presenters are available from the time of the workshop until the time of the last examination date to answer questions on a special NCRA Yahoo Web site just for workshop attendees.

    The cancer registry profession is becoming more sophisticated and requires more extensive knowledge and expertise with each passing year. Rules change; more is learned about cancer and the staging and treatment of cancer. This requires a person with a broad knowledge of cancer registration and cancer itself. In other words, it requires a CTR with a good educational background and grounding in basics.

    The successful candidates sitting for the CTR examination this year and in the coming years will be those people who will proudly take their place with the present CTRs.

    Donna M. Gress is employed by the American College of Surgeons as the American Joint Committee on Cancer technical specialist, and has been teaching the NCRA Exam Prep Workshop for more than 10 years. Louise Schuman has been a cancer registrar for 29 years and a CTR since 1983. She worked in a hospital cancer registry for more than 10 years before starting her own company 18 years ago.

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