Honoring Doctors Who Specialize in Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

As National Cancer Prevention Month draws to a close, it’s worth taking some time to acknowledge the considerable contributions of the physicians who have devoted their careers to cancer prevention, treatment and research.

If you are one who has chosen a career in medical oncology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology or a related field like pathology, you may be grateful for the opportunities afforded to you. You work with patients at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives, and it can be emotionally demanding. But it can also be incredibly meaningful.

“I feel pretty lucky to do what I do,” said Joseph Uberti, MD, PhD, a hematologist-oncologist with the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. “It was the right profession for me to go into.”

Celina Nadelman, MD, a cytopathologist in Los Angeles who specializes in fine need aspiration, expressed similar feelings.

“The field is exciting, and the work is rewarding, knowing that you can save lives or improve lives,” she said.

Of course, working with cancer patients can be challenging at times. Oncologists do lose patients. Cancer hasn’t been conquered. But improvements are happening all the time, and physicians may have the chance to develop a new treatment or offer one that makes a tremendous difference in a patient’s life.

Find locum tenens oncology assignments across the U.S.

Demand for oncologists expected to exceed the supply

There could be a shortage of more than 2,200 oncologists by the year 2025, according to recent evaluations by the healthcare consulting division at PYA. America’s population is aging, and the risk of cancer increases with age, creating more demand for oncologists.

As Uberti notes, “Patients are living longer, and patients are living longer with cancer,” which also drives the need for more specialists to provide care over their lifetimes. Add in the expected increase in physician retirements, and the situation worsens.

One particular oncology subspecialist is expected to be in short supply: hematologist-oncologists, the physicians who diagnose and treat blood cancers. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) reports that about 12,100 physicians were practicing in the arena of adult hematology-oncology in 2016, but the demand is expected to increase.

A 2019 study in Blood Advances predicted that the demand for adult hematologists in the United States would soon exceed the existing supply, and the researchers called for further study of the hematology workforce.

“In our current era of a growing shortage of adult hematologists to care for patients with complex medical conditions and to train the next generation of young hematologists, the time is ripe to ask critical questions to address these problems,” they wrote. 

Oncology opportunities abound

Whether physicians prefer a locum tenens job in oncology or a permanent position, they should find an array of job opportunities open to them in the future. Compensation is also trending upward for this profession.

Plus, the field of oncology is evolving, opening up more ways that physicians can make a difference for their patients.

“Although challenging, there is so much potential for growth,” said Nadelman. “The potential for growth in the field is limitless, as better and more treatment options are published in the literature and manufactured by drug companies.”

In recent years, tremendous amounts of research have furthered scientists’ understanding of cancer and driven the field forward, said Uberti. Oncologists now have many more tools, including immunotherapies, to effectively fight cancer and extend people’s lives.

“And that’s what really makes it an exciting field,” he added. “That’s what still motivates me today.”

STAFF CARE, an AMN Healthcare company, has an array of locum tenens oncology and hematology jobs

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