Finding the right doctor to treat your bladder cancer can be challenging, and many of our community members have commented that they have to travel to a major cancer center to find experts who can help them with their treatment. Recent data from the American Urological Association (AUA) shows a significant projected decline in the number of practicing urologists, which could make finding a doctor even more difficult.1
What’s causing the shortage?
One of the biggest reasons for the projected decline in urologists is because more than a fourth of the currently practicing urologists are over 65 years of age. They are expected to retire, and this will be compounded by an aging U.S. population, those who are most likely to need care by a urologist.1
In addition, younger urologists are more likely to practice in urban areas, and they are more likely to see fewer patients and work shorter hours compared to older urologists. Surveys have suggested that urologists have a high burnout rate, which also can contribute to the shortage of doctors.1
Another contributing factor to the lack of urologists is that there aren’t enough residency positions, a required part of physician training. In the 1970’s, there were just fewer than 400 residency positions, and the projections at that time suggested that there would be a surplus of urologists. Measures were taken to balance the number of residency positions to the projected need, and by 1997, there were only 200 residency positions. While approximately 100 have been added since then, the lack of positions may be one factor in the lack of physicians going into urology.1
Tips for traveling for cancer treatment
To find a urologist and get the treatment they need, many people with bladder cancer, particularly those who live in rural areas, must travel away from their home. Planning ahead can make traveling for cancer treatment easier, as well as keeping costs down, such as:
Keep a copy of your important papers, like your medical records, in your carry-on luggage
Make sure you have all your prescription medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements you need, in their original containers
Arrange for a wheelchair at the airport, if needed, and alert the airline about your medical condition
Ask the social worker at the hospital or facility where you are getting treatment for local accommodations that may offer discounted rates; a few organizations that offer housing to cancer patients and their families include the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge and the Ronald McDonald House Charities
Inquire if your hospital has any patient travel programs that can connect you with discounted airline fares2-4
Urology workforce shortage. American Urological Association. Available at http://www.auanet.org/guidelines/urology-workforce-shortage. Accessed 4/16/18.
Synder C. When you need to travel for cancer care. Cancer.net. Available at https://www.cancer.net/blog/2014-07/when-you-need-travel-cancer-care. Accessed 4/16/18.
Travel tips for cancer patients: Prepare for your trip. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Available at https://www.cancercenter.com/discussions/blog/travel-tips-for-cancer-patients-prepare/. Accessed 4/16/18.
Stoller R. Five ways to reduce costs when traveling for cancer treatments. Huffington Post. Available at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/robyn-stoller/5-ways-to-reduce-costs-wh_b_6155724.html. Accessed 4/16/18.