General Discussions

Cancer Care in 2015

By Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, ACNS-BC, OCN, FAAN
PUBLISHED THURSDAY, JANUARY 1, 1970
On March 17, 2015, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released The State of Cancer Care in America: 2015, which describes the current cancer care delivery system and discusses trends that are occurring in the oncology workplace and workforce.

The report builds on findings released last year in ASCO’s inaugural report.

There is an even wider array of treatment options available today than a year ago; four new medical devices and ten new drugs and treatments were approved in 2014. Because of these and other advances, people with cancer are living longer and 68.5% are alive five years after diagnosis (compared to only 49% in 1975). While this number looks good, what’s concerning is the 45% predicted increase in cancer incidence by 2030, largely because of our aging population. Our workforce is older and has plateaued, and is unlikely to meet the growing demand for care. In addition, professional burnout is on the rise, which may translate into reduced working hours or earlier retirement. We also have continued disparities in access to care across racial and ethnic groups, and in rural areas. Practice structures are changing because of increased costs, competition, and the proliferation of cost-containing programs. Practices continue to consolidate, with 25% of community-based practices reporting that they are likely to affiliate with a hospital in the coming year. Lastly, research funding cuts may impact future advances in care.

What are the fixes to the concerns identified? We need more oncology healthcare providers, and especially need more that reflect the population being treated; only 2.3% of practicing oncologists are African American. We need to break down the barriers preventing access to care, and encourage or provide incentives to practice in rural areas. We need to provide cost-effective care, but not if there is an associated burden, such as increased paperwork and reporting. We also need expanded support for cancer research, which has the potential to reduce the cancer burden and improve the lives of our patients. The State of Cancer Care in America: 2015 report is available at www.asco.org/stateofcancercare.
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