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Becoming a CTR – My Journey
Becoming a CTR

By Barbara Massie, CTR, Cancer Information Specialist

My journey to becoming a CTR may sound familiar. I was like so many others out there who knew nothing about a CTR or what it was. (Still wondering yourself? Watch our video, What is a Cancer Registrar.)

We all know the impact cancer has on ourselves and our loved ones, but I never knew patients were followed for life and their data was captured for studies. We all know new cancer treatments are being developed and tested all of the time, but I never knew the data collected by CTRs was integral to this process. What a rewarding profession!

My journey to becoming a CTR at CHAMPS Oncology began with my employment as a temporary employee. I signed on to work for four months, but it only took two weeks for my professional interest to pique. I thought to myself, “Wow this is some very interesting stuff,” and jumped in head first, learning everything I could, even though I was temporary.

Lucky for me I caught on quickly and was fortunate enough to be offered a full-time job. I just knew I had found my forever career and started going to school full time to get my degree in cancer information management. With my degree in hand, I had one last hurdle in my journey to becoming a CTR - the CTR exam.

The CTR exam is a four-hour test with an eight-week turnaround time for results. The day of my exam I was feeling down, nervous and sick. And that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach was confirmed when I finally received the letter in the mail with my results – I had failed by ONE POINT. I thought to myself, “What!?! This can’t be happening. Maybe becoming a CTR isn’t for me after all. How could I fail? I graduated with honors! I am excelling at work!”

But then I realized (after a long cry) this was just another life lesson for me to teach my children. Just because you fail, you can’t give up on something you believe in. I got back to studying. Got back out there. Took the test again. And passed it with flying colors!

Looking back, I realize my journey to becoming a CTR was filled with…


  • Receiving my associate's degree in applied science in cancer information management and graduating magna cum laude.
  • Being a part of a CHAMPS team that serves a top-ranked hospital in the U.S.
  • Reaching my five-year milestone in the cancer registry profession.


  • Preparing for the CTR exam was rough - we have so many manuals to learn inside and out!


  • Find a great mentor. If something you’re studying doesn’t make sense, ask them for clarification.
  • Attend any and all webinars made available to you.
  • Take a few days off before the CTR exam.

Does my journey to becoming a CTR sound familiar? Share your own experience in the comment section below.

Learn more about cancer registry careers.

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