Ensuring Quality Cancer Care through the Oncology Workforce: Sustaining Care in the 21st Century. Workshop Summary


Note: Proceedings contain the opinion of the presenters, but do NOT reflect the conclusions of the Health and Medicine Division or the National Academies. Learn more about the differences between Reports and Proceedings.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) predicts that by 2020, there will be an 81 percent increase in people living with or surviving cancer but only a 14 percent increase in the number of practicing oncologists. As a result, there may be too few oncologists to meet the population’s need for cancer care. This shortage will be compounded by a predicted lack of primary care physicians, who are responsible for a majority of cancer care, as well as a predicted lack of nurses, allied health care professionals, physician assistants, social workers, public health workers, and cancer registrars. There is a real danger that patients with cancer, whose successful recovery often depends on early detection and swift treatment, may not have access to the care essential to their survival and future health.

To help address the challenges in overcoming this potential crisis of cancer care, the National Cancer Policy Forum of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened the workshop “Ensuring Quality Cancer Care through the Oncology Workforce: Sustaining Care in the 21st Century” in Washington, DC on October 20 and 21, 2008. Workshop participants discussed how to address both the shortage in the oncology workforce as well as the health care workforce as a whole, to ensure the workforce does not become overburdened and is prepared to meet the growing number of patients in need of cancer care.