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High jump in cancer rates among baby boomers one reason cancer care system is in crisis

The majority of all cancer diagnoses are made in those aged 65 and older.

In 2010, people in this age group made up to 13 percent of the U.S. population. In 2030, when the baby boomers will be aged 65 or older, these older adults will be nearly 20 percent of the population.

This change will dramatically increase the total number of cancers diagnosed each year, with a 67 percent increase in cancer diagnoses the population aged 65 or over.

This increase in the number of cancer patients is one of the reasons that cancer care system in the United States is in crisis, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine. Other factors include rapidly rising costs, a shrinking pool of cancer care professionals, and dramatic changes in cancer therapies over the last decade that sometimes make it difficult to determine which patients should receive what treatment.

The report also says urgent changes are needed to boost the quality of care and improve outcomes for people diagnosed with cancer.

"We have a lot of waste in the system, where people are given treatments that are unnecessary and costly," said Patricia Ganz, M.D., chair of the committee that drafted the report and a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Ganz said changes are needed and that all stakeholders in the cancer care community – from patients and researchers to care providers, payers, and federal agencies – must work together to reevaluate their current roles and responsibilities in order to improve care, quality of life, and outcomes.

The report recommends working toward a system in which patients are engaged and informed, care is accessible and affordable, and the cancer care workforce is adequately staffed, trained, coordinated, and provides evidence-based care. In addition, the report said a focus needs to be placed on quality-measurement and performance improvement, improving health-care information technology, and translating research into clinical practice.

There are about 14 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today – 4 percent of the population. More than 1.6 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year. By the year 2022, that number is expected to jump to 2.3 million.

Copyright 2013, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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