Study estimates demand for radiation therapy will increase by 22% over next decade

September 20, 2017

Adopt a patient management team model: Incorporating physician assistants and/or advanced practice registered nurses to assist physicians in caring for patients receiving radiation therapy in order to increase the number of patients who can receive care at the same time; Provide shorter radiation treatment courses: In many situations, shorter treatment courses have been proven to be more efficient than, and just as effective as, long course radiation; and Increase the size of residency programs: A gradual increase in the number of trainees admitted to programs would help to increase the number of radiation oncologists available to treat patients over the next ten years.

Smith and colleagues estimated demand for radiation therapy by multiplying the current use of radiation therapy by population projections. To project the number of radiation oncologists in 2020, researchers examined the current number of board certified radiation oncologists and active residents who would become certified by 2014, being sensitive to age and gender, to determine approximate retirement age and full-time status. This model was then used to simulate the class composition for the remainder of the decade.

To measure the demand for radiation therapy and the supply of radiation oncologists, researchers used figures on current radiation therapy use and population projections from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-17 database, the U.S. Census and American Board of Radiology data on the current workforce and trainees.

"For the first time, we have a clearer sense of how a shortage in the oncology field may play out," said Smith. "While our projections in the number of full time practicing radiation oncologists are the most accurate to date, the actual gap between patients and radiation oncologists will depend on the role of and need for radiation therapy in the future."

Source: University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center