US facing shortage of doctors to screen for colorectal cancer

January 14, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Are we facing a bottleneck in gastrointestinal cancers screening in the future? This study conducted by the Lewin Group as commissioned by the medical technology firm Olympus predicts this can happen mainly due to the shortage of gastroenterologists (GIs) in about a decade’s time.

What are gastrointestinal cancers? According to the National Cancer Institute, the following types of cancer fall under this category:

Of these, the most common is colorectal cancer (CRC). Approximately 149,000 new cases of CRC were diagnosed in the US last year. CRC is estimated to have caused almost 50,000 deaths every year, making it the number 2 cancer killer in the US.

Here are some figures given by the study released during a telenews event last January 7:

  • The number of actively practicing GIs in the US, both for adults and children is estimated to be 10,390 in 2008.
  • The supply of GIs is expected to grow by about 1000 (10%) full time equivalents (FTEs) reach 11,460 FTE by 2020.
  • The elderly American population which is highly susceptible to CRC is increasing and is projected to require 12,510 FTEs of GIs by 2020. A shortage in GIs is therefore expected in 2020.
  • The estimated cost of new CRC cases was $8.3 billion in 2007; Medicare paid at least $2.4 billion of this expenditure.

CRC is preventable and treatable when diagnosed early and GIs play an important role in CRC screening. Increased rates in CRC screening can save many lives as well as billions of dollars in health care costs.

“… the aging U.S. population and increased colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates will overwhelm the supply of GI physicians by 2020, challenging the nation’s ability to provide adequate screening and treatment for the nation’s number two cancer killer.”

The study calls for measures to increase GIs supply in the form of increased spending on GI fellowships and training programs. In addition, education campaigns and outreach programs should be stepped up.

Olympus is committed to broad efforts to address the growing shortage of trained gastroenterologist and increase colorectal cancer screening rates by helping to educate, inform and create awareness about colorectal cancer through direct consumer outreach, collaborating with professional medical societies and advocacy groups and coordinating efforts with federal health agencies.

 Photo credit: stock.xchng

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