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Is There an Upcoming Radiation Oncologist Shortage?

By December 13, 2010

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In the December 10, 2010 edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology there was an interesting report about the potential shortage of radiation oncologists in the next ten years. Researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX predict that while the need for radiation therapy will increase by 22% in the next decade, the number of practicing radiation oncologists will only increase by 2% in that time frame.

In order to ensure accessible and timely care for clients such as lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemia patients, the report suggests further study needs to be done. They recommend more research to answer questions such as: Can the current supply of radiation oncologists accommodate increased patient volume? Can changes in radiation therapy regimens increase the number of patients the oncologist would see, without compromising care (for example, shortening course of treatment without compromising patient outcomes)? To what extent could midlevel practitioners (such as physician assistants and advance practice nurses) enhance supply without compromising care?

They also indicate that since the population of geriatric patients will increase significantly in the upcoming decade, more geriatrics education should be integrated into training for radiation oncologists.

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