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 problems."
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.