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Cancer Registry Frequently Asked Questions

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What is an Oncology Data Specialist/ODS?

Oncology Data Specialists who hold a special certification and are highly trained data management specialists who capture a complete history, diagnosis, treatment, and health status for every cancer patient. To learn more about the ODS Credential visit: Credential (

What do Oncology Data Specialists do?

Oncology Data Specialists in hospital-based registries enter and maintain data on all patients diagnosed and/or treated for cancer at a particular healthcare facility. This data collection can identify emerging cancer trends, prevalence, mortality, survival, and determine cancer incidence and outcomes. These statistics provide important information to physicians, researchers, other healthcare professionals, the public, and more. ODS’s also work to support cancer program development, ensure compliance with reporting standards, and are a valuable resource for cancer information.

Oncology Data Specialists are responsible for:

  • Identifying cases
  • Managing the cancer registry database
  • Ensuring data quality and completeness
  • Complying with standards
  • Analyzing and presenting data and reports
  • Providing information such as treatment and survival statistics

Information is obtained from several sources:

  • EPIC (MiChart) - all encounters are reviewed as well as Media, Health Information Exchange, Great Lakes Health Connect and Care Everywhere
  • ARIA – Radiation Oncology
  • Outside hospitals and physician offices
Who are we?
How to become an ODS?

The National Cancer Registrars Association accredits educational programs across the U.S. Here are some common paths to become an ODS: Paths to Become a Cancer Registrar (

The ODS credential is then earned by successfully completing a proctored exam with a passing score. The credential is then maintained by completing 20 continuing education hours every two years.

Where does the data go?

Newly abstracted and updated cases are submitted:

  • Bi-weekly to the Michigan Cancer Surveillance Program (MCSP) required by state and federal law
  • Bi-weekly to the Metropolitan Detroit Cancer Surveillance System (MDCSS)
  • Monthly to the National Cancer Database (NCDB) Rapid Cancer Reporting System (RCRS) which is part of the Commission on Cancer (COC) accreditation and is one of the largest cancer databases in the US
  • All cases must clear edits prior to submission to ensure data quality
How does the data get used?

Healthcare providers, public health officials, and researchers use the data to:

  • Calculate cancer incidence and monitor trends over time
  • Evaluate efficacy of treatment modalities
  • Determine survival rates
  • Develop targeted educational and screening programs
  • Conduct research on the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer
How do I request data from the Michigan Medicine Cancer Registry and the National Cancer Database?

This form is available to Michigan Medicine clinicians and staff: Electronic Data Request Form

For more information and/or access to the NCDB Reporting Tools and Participant User File (PUF) contact Stacey Meredith at [email protected]

PUF Users – for a Letter of Support contact Dr. Christina Angeles at [email protected].

National Cancer Database (NCDB): NCDB Tools Overview: 22_ca_ncdbtools_8-5x11_v01.pdf (