Projected supply of and demand for oncologists and radiation oncologists through 2025: an aging, better-insured population will result in shortage

J Oncol Pract. 2014 Jan;10(1):39-45. doi: 10.1200/JOP.2013.001319.


Purpose: The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) published a study in 2007 that anticipated a shortage of oncologists by 2020. This study aims to update and better assess the market for chemotherapy and radiation therapy and the impact of health reform on capacity of and demand for oncologists and radiation oncologists.

Methods: The supply of oncologists and radiation oncologists, by age, sex, and specialty, was projected through 2025 with an input-output model. The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, commercial claims, and Medicare claims were analyzed to determine patterns of use by patient characteristics such as age, sex, health insurance coverage, cancer site, physician specialty, and service type. Patterns of use were then applied to the projected prevalence of cancer, using data from the SEER Program of the National Cancer Institute.

Results: Beginning in 2012, 16,347 oncologists and radiation oncologists were active and supplying 15,190 full-time equivalents (FTEs) of patient care. Without consideration of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), overall demand for oncologist services is projected to grow 40% (21,255 FTEs), whereas supply may grow only 25% (18,997 FTEs), generating a shortage of 2,258 FTEs in 2025. When fully implemented, the ACA could increase the demand for oncologists and radiation oncologists by 500,000 visits per year, increasing the shortage to 2,393 FTEs in 2025.

Conclusion: Anticipated shortages are largely consistent with the projections of the ASCO 2007 workforce study but somewhat more delayed. The ACA may modestly exacerbate the shortage. Unless oncologist productivity can be enhanced, the anticipated shortage will strain the ability to provide quality cancer care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / trends
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Workforce / trends
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / economics
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology* / trends
  • Medicare / economics
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Neoplasms / economics
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiation Oncology* / trends
  • SEER Program / statistics & numerical data
  • Societies, Medical
  • United States