Dr. Sharma’s comments highlight a pressing and long-standing concern for many public health officials in the CNMI: the lack of a cancer registry. The CNMI is one of the last jurisdictions in the United States that has yet to develop a standardized, population-based cancer registry program. Current local data on all forms of cancer, including colorectal cancer, are limited and not readily available. A functioning cancer registry would provide invaluable data for public health officials, providing better documentation regarding cancer demographics in the CNMI, and helping to determine, among other things, whether U.S. cancer prevention and screening guidelines (based on U.S. mainland population data) apply here.
Senator Ralph Torres has recently introduced Senate Bill 17-10, SS1, to authorize the creation of a population-based cancer registry program for the CNMI. If enacted, this legislation will give the Department of Public Health (DPH) the mandate it needs to develop and maintain a standardized registry to record and track data that are essential for identifying and monitoring cancer trends and delivering timely, appropriate, and coordinated healthcare services. Private healthcare providers will also be required to submit data for the registry. The Department of Public Health has already secured federal funding and established a cooperative agreement with the University of Hawaii that will be instrumental in developing and operating this cancer registry. The passage of enabling legislation is now required in order for DPH to move forward with implementation.