Background: Over the next two decades, the US population will experience dramatic growth in the number and relative proportion of older individuals. The aim of this study was to quantify the effect of these changes on the demand for oncological procedures. Methods: The 2000 Nationwide Inpatient Sample and the 1996 National Survey of Ambulatory Surgery were used to compute age-specific incidence rates for oncological procedures of the breast, colon, rectum, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus. Procedure rates were combined with census projections for 2010 and 2020 to estimate the future utilization of each procedure. Results: By 2020, the number of patients undergoing oncological procedures is projected to increase by 24% to 51%. The bulk of growth in procedures is derived from outpatient procedures, but significant growth will also be seen in inpatient procedures. Conclusions: The aging of the population will generate an enormous growth in demand for oncological procedures. If a shortage of surgeons performing these procedures does occur, the result will inevitably be decreased access to care. To prevent this from happening, the ability of surgeons to cope with an increased burden of work needs to be critically evaluated and improved.
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