Distribution of the workforce involved in cancer care: a systematic review of the literature

D. Trapani, S. S. Murthy, M. Boniol, C. Booth, V. C. Simensen, M. K. Kasumba, R. Giuliani, G. Curigliano, A. M. Ilbawi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: A skilled health workforce is instrumental for the delivery of multidisciplinary cancer care and in turn a critical component of the health systems. There is, however, a paucity of data on the vast inequalities in cancer workforce distribution, globally. The aim of this study is to describe the global distribution and density of the health care workforce involved in multidisciplinary cancer management. Methods: We carried out a systematic review of the literature to determine ratios of health workers in each occupation involved in cancer care per 100 000 population and per 100 cancer patients (PROSPERO: protocol CRD42018095414). Results: We identified 33 eligible papers; a majority were cross-sectional surveys (n = 16). The analysis of the ratios of health providers per population and per patients revealed deep gaps across the income areas, with gradients of workforce density, highest in high-income countries versus low-income areas. Benchmark estimates of optimal workforce availability were provided in a secondary research analysis: mainly high-income countries reported workforce capacities closer to benchmark estimates. A paucity of literature was defined for critical health providers, including for pediatric oncology, surgical oncology, and cancer nurses. Conclusion: The availability and distribution of the cancer workforce is heterogeneous, and wide gaps are described worldwide. This is the first systematic review on this topic. These results can inform policy formulation and modelling for capacity building and scaleup.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100292
JournalESMO Open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • cancer workforce
  • capacity-building
  • global cancer policy
  • medical oncology workforce
  • national cancer control planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Distribution of the workforce involved in cancer care: a systematic review of the literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this