U.S. Census Bureau data show that the number of Americans 65 years and older will double between 2000 and 2030. As this wave of older citizens surges forward, 78 million people will move into the age group at highest risk for cancer. In addition, experts say that baby boomers have high expectations for medical care, and medical care advances contribute to the increasing demand for health care services.

A growing number of cancer survivors are also driving demand. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate for all cancers diagnosed from 1999 to 2005 is 68 percent, up from 50 percent from 1975 to 1977. The improvement in survival reflects progress in diagnosing certain cancers at an earlier stage and improvements in treatment.

The expected difficulties that the oncology workforce will soon face in meeting demand for care has prompted AACI and other organizations to attempt to quantify the problem and develop solutions. Recent studies and surveys have found that:
• The number of health professionals currently certified in oncology won’t be sufficient to handle the workload in 2020;
• Cancer patients won’t necessarily be treated by oncologists – general practitioners must learn to treat cancer;
• There will be a shortage of qualified candidates for oncology residencies and fellowships.

Given AACI’s role as the premier cancer center advocate, the association is well-positioned to address the impending workforce crisis. To that end, AACI launched the Oncology Workforce Initiative in 2008.

As an early step in the workforce initiative, AACI partnered with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to sound out a representative group of eight cancer center leaders on their workforce concerns. Interviewed in October 2008, the group was also asked about best practices and mitigation strategies currently used by their centers to promote recruitment and retention of faculty and professional staff.

AACI’s oncology workforce efforts are linked in part to its membership in the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) National Cancer Policy Forum (NCPF). AACI participated in a NCPF workshop that resulted in the publication of, “Ensuring Quality Cancer Care through the Oncology Workforce: Sustaining Care in the 21st Century”. AACI has also partnered with C-Change, an AACI Sustaining Member, participating in a C-Change Cancer Workforce Development Forum, as well as in discussions for the launch of the organization’s collaborative efforts for "Sustaining a Strong National Cancer Workforce".

In 2010, AACI compiled and disseminated a report describing 21 member centers’ efforts to enhance oncology workforce training, recruitment and retention, as well as related areas of activity such as new models of care, research support, and policy.

Documents

• “What Cancer Centers Are Doing to Address the Oncology Workforce Shortage” - [pdf]
     Poster Presentation, 7th Annual Physician Workforce Conference
     Association of American Medical Colleges
     May 5, 2011

• AACI 2010 Oncology Workforce Report - [pdf]

• AAMC Summary of Workforce Interviews with Cancer Center Directors--2008 - [pdf]