boston.com Your Life your connection to The Boston Globe
White Coat Notes: News from the Boston-area medical community
Comments
Send your comments and tips to whitecoat@globe.com
Categories


Blogger
Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Contributors
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Scott Allen
Alice Dembner
Carey Goldberg
Liz Kowalczyk
Stephen Smith
Colin Nickerson
Beth Daley
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
 Short White Coat blogger Ishani Ganguli
Week of: May 20
Week of: May 13
Week of: May 6
Week of: April 29
Week of: April 22
Week of: April 15

« Norovirus toll climbs to nearly 400 at rehab center | Main | Today's Globe: team healthcare, insurance and follow-up care, VA backlog, gene voyage, hospital revenue »

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cancer doctors will soon be in short supply

By Scott Allen, Globe Staff

The United States faces a looming shortage of cancer specialists by the year 2020 as aging Baby Boomers become increasingly cancer-prone and medical schools can't train enough new oncologists to keep up with them, according to a national survey released this afternoon.

The report from the American Society of Clinical Oncology forecasts a 48 percent increase in need for cancer treatment by 2020, while the number of oncologists will rise by only 14 percent, leaving a need for 2,550 to 4,080 more cancer specialists nationwide.

"This is a problem for the whole cancer care delivery system and everyone who is involved with it," said Dr. Michael Goldstein of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who chaired the society's Workforce in Oncology Task Force. "The whole work force is going to be challenged 10 to 15 years from now."

In a way, oncologists are victims of their own success. As cancer treatment has become more successful, deaths from cancer have begun to decline, leaving more people living with cancer -- and still needing care. In addition, more than half of oncologists are already at least 50 years old, raising the prospect of mass retirements in the decades ahead.

So far, the shortage of oncologists is little more than an inconvenience for the doctors who are seeing an increased workload, but Goldstein and other cancer specialists say action needs to be taken now because it takes so many years to train new physicians. The Society of Clinical Oncology is already developing recommendations to ease the coming shortage, such as delegating more care to nurses and other medical staff, persuading older oncologists to delay retirement, and reducing the paperwork that keeps doctors away from patients.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 06:07 PM
Sponsored Links