Importance of Cancer Registry

Cancer is a major national burden. Cancer consistently remains the second leading cause of death among Americans. In the year 2023, an estimated 609, 820 people in the United States are expected to die of cancer. This amounts to more than 1,670 people a day. In 2019 cancer cost our nation an estimated $21.09 billion in patient out-of-pocket costs and patient time spent traveling, waiting for care, and receiving care.

Reducing the nation's cancer burden is a great and noble cause that involves many people, including physicians, researchers, epidemiologists, public health planners, legislators, medical students, and others. All of these people appreciate and rely on cancer data in their effort to win the "War on Cancer." Cancer death rates dropped 27% from 2001 to 2020” including a greater decrease among males (30%) compared to females (25%), although overall, males had higher death rates. The decline is attributed to improved treatments, earlier detection, and reductions in smoking.

Physicians need cancer data to learn more about the causes of cancer and detect cancer earlier, thereby increasing the chance of finding a cure. Cancer specialists make treatment choices based on accurate cancer data from such sources as reports from pathologists and cytologists. Even after treatment, cancer specialists still need cancer data to follow-up with the patient long enough to determine whether the treatment was effective and, if not, to determine why not. Because cancer registries provide this type of data, they are invaluable research tools for those interested in the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.

Cancer data may point to environmental risk factors or high risk behaviors, so preventive measures can be taken to reduce the number of cancer cases and resulting deaths. Local, state, and national cancer agencies and cancer control programs also use registry data from defined areas to make important public health decisions that maximize the effectiveness of limited public health funds directed at the implementation of screening and prevention programs.

Lifetime follow-up is another important aspect of the cancer registry. Current patient follow-up serves as a reminder to physicians and patients to schedule regular clinical examinations which provides accurate survival information.

In brief, the importance of cancer registries lies in the fact that they collect accurate and complete cancer data that can be used for cancer control and epidemiological research, public health program planning, and patient care improvement. Ultimately, all of these activities reduce the burden of cancer. As Dr. Donna Shalala, the former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, noted: "A national system of cancer registries can help us understand the disease better and use our resources to the best effect in prevention and treatment."

Updated: December 11, 2023