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Frequently Asked Questions about Cancer and the Cancer Registry

What is cancer?

Although we use the word cancer, we are really talking about many diseases, or cancers, which are different from each other. Cancer is a group of about 100 diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death.

What causes cancer?

Cancer is caused by both external (chemicals, radiation and viruses) and internal (hormones, immune conditions and inherited mutations) factors. The factors may work together or in sequence to start or promote a cancer. Ten years to a lifetime may pass between exposures or mutations and detectable cancer.

Who gets cancer?

Anyone. Since the occurrence of cancer increases as people age, most cases appear in middle-aged or older adults. In the United States, one out of every two men and one out of every three women will get some form of cancer in their lifetime. Four out of every 10 North Carolinians will have some type of cancer in their lifetime. It is a very common disease.

What is a cancer registry?

A cancer registry is a cancer information center. Registries collect data about new cancer cases, cancer treatment and cancer deaths. There are three general types of cancer registries: 1) hospital-based registries collect information about cancer patients at their hospital 2) special registries collect information on one type of cancer, like brain cancer 3) Central Cancer Registries collect information about cancer patients in a particular area, like the state of North Carolina.

What is the Central Cancer Registry?

The North Carolina Central Cancer Registry (CCR) is the cancer data center for the population of North Carolina.

Who gets reported to the Central Cancer Registry?

All cancer cases diagnosed in North Carolina are reported to the CCR. Reporting newly diagnosed cancer patients is required by state law.

How does a person get reported?

Usually the hospital where a patient was treated reports the information to the CCR, but laboratories, clinics and doctors’ offices also report new cancer cases.

Is the information kept confidential?

Absolutely. The confidentiality of the information is required by state law. Names or identifiers are not released in our reports. Occasionally, with special permission, names are given to cancer researchers who promise to keep them confidential and use the information to try to save lives. You could be asked to participate, with your doctor's permission.

Why do we need a Central Cancer Registry?

The CCR has many uses for health care providers, researchers, health planners and policy makers, and the average citizen. We respond to questions and concerns, publish facts about cancer in North Carolina, monitor cancer trends by looking for problems in specific groups or communities, and promote and conduct cancer research to find causes and cures that may save lives in the future.