SAN FRANCISCO--Delays for radiation treatment are longer in Ontario
than in the United States, Canadian researchers reported in a
poster presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society
of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO).
Of 96 radiation oncology departments from Canada and the United
States surveyed, 89 responded to the study's six case descriptions
and questions regarding waiting times. The results showed that
median delays from referral to radiation treatment were significantly
longer in Canada than in the United States for all cases except
spinal cord compression, the Ontario group reported.
For example, median waiting times for T2N0M0 larynx cancer were
29 days in Canada and 10 days in the United States; for painful
bone metastases, 17 days in Canada and 5 days in the United States.
All departments in both countries treated patients with spinal
cord compression on the day of referral.
"Professional staff in Canada carry higher case loads than
their counterparts in the US, and equipment utilization is higher,"
the researchers said. "But the majority of Canadian cancer
centers are unable to treat patients without delays which most
radiation oncologists in the United States and Canada believe
are medically unacceptable. Few American centers experience similar
Waits Getting Longer
An earlier study from the Ontario group showed that waiting lists
for radiotherapy are growing longer in Ontario, with steady deterioration
of access seen between 1982 and 1991.
"Waiting times for radiation treatment have more than doubled
over the last 10 years, and only a minority of patients are now
treated within the time limits prescribed by CARO (Canadian Association
of Radiation Oncologists)," William J. Mackillop, MD, who
headed the study, said in an interview with Oncology News International.