Crisis Looming For Cancer Care In The US
September 11, 2013

US Cancer Care System Facing Crisis, According To New Report

[ Watch the Video: US Cancer Care System Is In Crisis ]

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Delivery of cancer care in the US is facing a crisis due to the aging population, increased demand and rising costs of treatment, a shrinking oncology work force and the complexity of the disease, according to a new Institute of Medicine report released on Monday.

According to the report, the cancer incidence rate is expected to increase 45 percent (from 1.6 million new diagnoses each year to 2.3 million new diagnoses) by 2030, in part because of a rapid spike in the number of adults over the age of 65. Further complicating the matter are fears that there may not be enough people working in oncology centers, and that training programs do not possess the ability to expand rapidly enough to compensate.

“Adding to stresses on the system is the complexity of cancer and its treatment, which has grown in recent years with the development of new therapies targeting specific abnormalities often present only in subsets of patients,” the Institute explained in a statement. “Given the disease’s complexity, clinicians, patients, and patients’ families can find it difficult to formulate care plans with the necessary speed, precision, and quality; as a result, decisions about cancer care are often not sufficiently evidence-based.”

Cancer care is also expected to suffer due to the increasing costs of treating the disease, which the report said is increasing at a faster rate than other medical disciplines. Between the years of 2004 and 2010, the cost of cancer care has increased from $72 billion to $125 billion, and it is expected to increase another 39 percent to $173 billion over the next seven years. Compounding the situation are the financial struggles currently facing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – the leading insurer for Americans over the age of 65.

“Most clinicians caring for cancer patients are trying to provide optimal care, but they’re finding it increasingly difficult because of a range of barriers,” said Patricia Ganz, a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and School of Public Health and chair of the report committee. “As a nation we need to chart a new course for cancer care. Changes are needed across the board, from how we communicate with patients, to how we translate research into practice, to how we coordinate care and measure its quality.”

In response, the authors of the report have issued a set of six recommendations designed to help improve cancer patient care. They include engaging patients and helping them make informed medical decisions consistent with their needs and preferences; finding ways to respond to changing demographics and work-force shortages; coming up with care systems based on scientific research and evidence of benefits and harms of various treatment options; health care information technology system that includes real-time analysis of patient data; translation of evidence into practice, quality measurement, and performance improvement; and affordable and accessible care options.

The research was sponsored by the following institutions: the National Cancer Institute; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; AARP; American Cancer Society; American College of Surgeons, Commission on Cancer; American Society of Clinical Oncology; American Society of Hematology; American Society for Radiation Oncology; California HealthCare Foundation; LIVESTRONG; National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship; Oncology Nursing Society; and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.