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PHOENIX -- According to a new report, the nation may soon face a shortage of nearly 1,500 doctors to treat cancer.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology said demand for cancer treatments will grow by at least 42 percent by 2025, while the number of oncologists will only increase 28 percent.

"The shortages might have many different origins, not the least is which is that cancer is a disease that is more common as we age," said Dr. Ruben Mesa, an oncologist with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.

For example, Baby Boomers are getting older and now reaching retirement age.

"With the aging of the population, the sheer number of cancer patients will continue to grow significantly," Mesa explained.

Mesa also said that Maricopa County has numerous medical facilities that deal with cancer, so it shouldn't face any shortages, but he is concerned about other parts of Arizona.

"Trying to provide state of the art, complicated surgical techniques for removing cancer, complicated radiation treatments that offer the latest in new therapies and new drugs (will be a challenge)," Mesa said. "I do think that the challenges, particularly in more rural Arizona, will continue to ratchet up."

He believes that in the future, primary care physicians and physicians assistants may have to handle basic cancer treatments so that oncologists can deal with more serious cases.

Bob McClay, Reporter

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