V. D’Hondt MD, PhD, N. Benahmed , A. De Wever MD, L. Dirix MD, D. De Valeriola MD
Medical oncology was officially recognised as a specialty in Belgium in 2007. Only limited information is available as to the optimal number of medical oncologists to cover present and future needs. The objective of this study was to analyse the current and future supply, need and demand of medical oncologists in Belgium.
Two surveys were conducted to analyse the supply and need of medical oncologists, one among medical oncologists and a second among medical hospital directors. The evolution of demand due to demographic changes was forecast for the next two decades. A current shortage of medical oncologists, corresponding to roughly half of the current medical oncology workload, has been estimated and is mostly the result of a recent recognition of the specialty and the consequent reorganisation of hospitals. An increase of 28% in the demand during the next two decades is forecast because of an expanding and largely aging population. A worrisome imbalance between supply and need of medical oncologists in Belgium shows itself and an increased demand is forecast, mainly due to demographic changes. This analysis is only the first step of a more general assessment of the situation needed to identify the challenges of medical oncology as a new specialty and to address the multifaceted issues associated with treating cancer in the future.