UND and ND hospitals observe National Cancer Registrars Week April 7–11

Mary Ann Sens

Mary Ann Sens

Gov. Jack Dalrymple has proclaimed April 7–11 as National Cancer Registrars Week (NCRW) in North Dakota. The University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences along with North Dakota’s cancer registrars will join their global colleagues, fellow medical professionals, and community leaders in observing the week. The purpose of NCRW is to emphasize the important role cancer registrars play in capturing the data that informs cancer research, prevention, and treatment programs.

UND in collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Health operates the North Dakota Statewide Cancer Registry (NDSCR).  The cancer registry receives data from N.D. health providers and hospitals and assures it meets the standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society.   The cancer registry involves smooth collaboration between the UND SMHS’s Department of Pathology and Master of Public Health Program as well as the North Dakota Department of Health. The Department of Health relies on the expertise of the doctors and scientists at UND to research specific cancers and analyze cancer statistics.

“UND collects and organizes the data so it can be used for  public health monitoring, assessment of cancer risks and outcomes, and reporting to the CDC and NCI for national comparisons of cancer,” said Mary Ann Sens,  M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of UND’s Department of Pathology, who serves as the program director. “Important goals of the registry are to monitor cancer and to establish that cancer treatment in North Dakota is equitable, prompt and meets national standards.”  The statewide registry depends heavily on information gathered by cancer registrars at hospitals throughout North Dakota.

Assisting in the direction of the NDSCR are UND faculty members Lucy Zheng, M.D., and Xudong Zhou, M.D., both from the Department of Pathology; and Cristina Oancea, M.S., Ph.D., from the UND Master of Public Health Program.  Oancea, a population health and cancer epidemiology expert, monitors cancer patterns in the state, including the investigation of cancer clusters, which are the incidences of specific cancers within a group of people, a geographic area or a period in numbers much greater than expected by chance alone.  Additional support is provided for bioinformatics of cancer by Kurt Zhang, M.S., Ph.D., from the UND SMHS Department of Pathology and ND INBRE—North Dakota IDeA (Institutional Development Award) Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, which is administered by the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“The School is very pleased to be able to partner with the North Dakota Department of Health to better serve the people of the state,” said Joshua Wynne, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND SMHS. “We are particularly fortunate to have someone with the experience, expertise, and renown of Dr. Sens to serve as program director. This is yet another way that the SMHS strives to fulfill its mission for the people of North Dakota by improving the quality of their lives.”

In the 1990s, realizing the need to better track cancers and chronic diseases, the CDC set up a system where all states report cancer statistics—the type, stage and treatment—to the CDC to be used for public health studies, research and to establish evidence for the effectiveness of treatments; for example, does PSA screening help reduce prostate cancer deaths? To aid participation in the CDC system, the North Dakota Legislature requires all hospitals, laboratories, physicians and other health care providers to report all newly diagnosed or treated cancer patients to the North Dakota Statewide Cancer Registry. Information in the registry is highly secured, and patients are never identified.

The purpose of the North Dakota registry, established in 1997, is to monitor cancer trends, promote research, increase survival, guide policy planning and respond to cancer concerns from patients or the public. But the wealth of data compiled in the registry would lie useless until analyzed and translated into usable information for health care facilities, patients and the public.

“This is another example of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences providing needed infrastructure for the state and maintaining a strong collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Health,” Sens said. “The registry ultimately serves all North Dakotans by providing accurate cancer data.”

Additional information on the North Dakota Statewide Cancer Registry can be found at http://www.ndhealth.gov/cancerregistry/about/about.htm and more information about the National Cancer Registrars Association is available at  http://www.ncra-sa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3862.

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Contact: Denis MacLeod, assistant director, Office of Alumni and Community Relations, UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences, 701.777.2733, denis.macleod@med.und.edu

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