Women’s Health A ‘Serious’ Concern Due to Oncologist Shortage: Report

A shortage of oncologists in the U.S. workforce is predicted to put women’s health in “serious” jeopardy. The concern is the subject of a new analysis issued by Doximity. By the year 2025, the U.S. is expected to have a shortage of over 2,200 oncologists.

Cancer is one of the most pressing health issues that women face nationally. One out of every 17 U.S. women will develop lung cancer over the course of their lifetime and one out of every eight will develop invasive breast cancer,” said co-author Amit Phull, MD, in a press release. “If the growing shortage of oncologists is not addressed, it could have serious implications for large patient populations, especially in places where the shortages are predicted to be most acute.”

According to the report, a scarce number of physicians in the U.S. poses a significant threat to the medical system as a whole. Regarding specific disease management, “future shortages in oncology could have a serious and specific impact to women’s healthcare.”

The analysis examined 50 specific metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) for their risk of oncologist shortages, of which 37 had at least a 20% rate of practicing oncologists aged older than 65 years—above retirement age. A survey cited in the study found that oncologists typically retire at age 64; those who are still practicing after age 64 plan to retire within the next three to four years.

The top 15 MSAs with the highest percentage of oncologists above retirement age are:

  1. Miami (35%)
  2. North Port, Fla. (33%)
  3. New York City (30%)
  4. Los Angeles (30%)
  5. Washington, D.C. (30%)
  6. Detroit (29%)
  7. Hartford, Conn. (28%)
  8. Buffalo, N.Y. (28%)
  9. Las Vegas (28%)
  10. San Diego (27%)
  11. Providence, R.I. (27%)
  12. Richmond, Va. (27%)
  13. St. Louis (26%)
  14. Virginia Beach, Va. (26%)
  15. San Francisco (26%)

This data helped the researchers calculate a composite index score to rank which MSAs were at the highest and lowest risk of oncologist shortages. MSAs with the greatest risk are:

  • Miami
  • North Port, Fla.
  • New York City
  • Los Angeles
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Detroit
  • Hartford, Conn.
  • Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Las Vegas
  • San Diego

In contrast, MSAs with the lowest shortage risk are:

  • Orlando, Fla.
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Nashville, Tenn.
  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • Memphis, Tenn.
  • Louisville, Ky.
  • Phoenix
  • San Jose, Calif.
  • Houston
  • Portland, Ore.

The demand for oncologists differs by area as well; however, some MSAs with higher proportions of older oncologists and the greatest risk for shortages also have higher rates of women with breast cancer per 100,000: Buffalo, N.Y. (352); Virginia Beach, Va. (341); Hartford, Conn. (338); St. Louis (331). Overlap also exists among rates of women with lung cancer per 100,000: Buffalo, .Y. (78) and Nashville, Tenn. (76).

“By identifying where oncologist shortages may appear first, we can get a clearer view into how a shortage will impact local communities across the country; and particularly impact patients suffering from the most common forms of cancer,” said lead author Christopher Whaley, PhD.