The USA faces a serious threat to its cancer care system as growing demand for care outstrips the supply of oncologists.

That is the key point of a landmark report released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) which notes that advances in treatment, screening and prevention have produced a dramatic decline in deaths in recent decades, with a record 13.7 million cancer survivors living in the USA. However, due largely to the aging of the population as well as lifestyle changes, the number of new cancer cases in the USA is projected to increase by as much as 42% by 2025.

At the same time, the cost is projected to reach $175 billion by 2020, an increase of 40% from 2010. Despite a near doubling of demand for cancer care services, the number of oncologists will likely grow by only 28%, leaving a projected deficit of 1,487 physicians in just over a decade.
 
ASCO says that given an oncologist sees an average of 300 new patients each year, "nearly 450,000 new patients are likely to face obstacles in getting life-saving care". The report reveals that the problem will be especially felt in rural areas where only 3% of oncologists practice  but where nearly one in five Americans lives. More than 70% of US counties analysed by ASCO have no medical oncologists at all.
   
ASCO president Clifford Hudis said that "we're facing a collection of challenges, each one of which could keep cancer treatment advances out of reach for some individuals". He added that "when patients first hear the word 'cancer,' one of the last things they should have to worry about is finding a qualified doctor".

Dr Hudis went on to say that "we need to plan and invest to avoid that, pursuing everything from leveraging technology and innovative practice models to using non-physician providers as part of teams providing patient care". He concludes by saying that "the US cancer system is among the best in the world, but it simply cannot continue to meet the growing needs of patients with cancer unless fundamental, systemic change is pursued".