Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System

Cancer Reporting


The following information is an overview of the MCSS cancer reporting requirements. After you review this information, please call 651-201-5900 and ask for the Director of Operations, or send an email to health.mcss@state.mn.us. We can start the process of assigning a MCSS Field Service Representative to your facility and discuss the specifics of your data submission to the MCSS. We look forward to working with you. Thank you very much for your assistance.

Cancer Definition

For the MCSS, cancer means any in situ or malignant neoplasms,
with these exceptions:

  • 1) basal and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin other than genitalia are excluded;
  • 2) in situ carcinomas and intraepithelial neoplasms of the uterine cervix are excluded; and
  • 3) all brain and other central nervous system neoplasms, whether benign or malignant, are included.

Ambiguous Terminology

Pathology reports usually contain a diagnosis of cancer in specific terms. However, when  the pathologist is not certain whether the tumor is benign or malignant, the following qualifying terms determine whether a pathology report should be sent to the MCSS. As of 1/1/2011, cytology identified only with any of the terms from either list below is not reportable.

Ambiguous Terms that Constitute a Diagnosis of Cancer (Reportable):

  • Apparent(ly)
  • Appears
  • Comparable with
  • Compatible with
  • Consistent with
  • Favors
  • Malignant appearing
  • Most likely
  • Presumed
  • Probable / probably
  • Suspect(ed)
  • Suspicious (for)
  • Typical of

Ambiguous Terms that Do Not Constitute a Diagnosis of Cancer
(Not Reportable):

  • Approaching
  • Borderline
  • Cannot be ruled out
  • Equivocal
  • Possible
  • Potentially malignant
  • Questionable
  • Rule out
  • Suggests
  • Worrisome
  • Very close to

Microscopically-confirmed cytologic diagnoses of cancers are reportable regardless of whether the primary site is known. If a pathology report contains no diagnosis of active malignant tissue or cells but indicates that there was a prior malignancy of this site, no report is necessary.

All types of pathology reports must be reviewed to select those containing a diagnosis of a reportable cancer. This includes laboratory reports of:

  • autopsy
  • surgical biopsy and excision
  • bone marrow
  • hematology
  • cytology
  • slides for consultation
  • peripheral smear
  • flow cytometry; and
  • electron microscopy

MCSS staff work with each institution to review pathology report files and accession records to assure accurate and complete data reporting.

Data items  required by the MCSS

All of the data items that are known by the reporting entity are required to be reported to the MCSS.  Data items may vary by the reporting source.  For example, pathology laboratories would report specimen date, pathology report number, etc., and cancer registries would report class of case, sequence number, etc.

Data Privacy

Personal identifying information (pertaining to the patient, physician, and pathologist) collected under MCSS statutes is not discoverable in legal proceedings and is not accessible to any other state or federal agencies.  All data, by law, are considered private, non-public.

Because the MCSS is considered a public health authority under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy regulations, reporting of cancers and benign tumors of the brain and CNS is required no patient consent is needed. See FAQ about HIPAA and Cancer Reporting
(PDF: 34KB/3 pages).

Reportability Lists:

Related Links:

Updated Thursday, 25-Jul-2013 12:03:56 CDT