Quantifying the Gap
Access to radiation oncology services remains a significant problem for many Australian patients.
Having the optimal radiotherapy utilisation rate as a target allows comparison with actual rates to identify areas where improvements in the evidence-based use of radiotherapy can be made. It provides valuable data for radiotherapy service planning.
38% of patients with cancer will receive RT at some stage in their illness, i.e. the current average radiotherapy utilisation rate is about 38% 11,12. When patients miss out on radiation oncology, the patient outcomes suffer. Radiotherapy has a positive impact on local cancer control and control of cancer symptoms such as pain.
Access to radiation oncology services and remedying the current under-utilisation of radiotherapy treatments is an important priority for cancers control.
- At present, at least 14.2% of new cancer patients in Australia do not receive radiotherapy treatment mandated by evidence-based practice;
- This equates to at least around 18,000 cancer patients not receiving potentially beneficial radiotherapy treatment in 2012;
- In 2022, if the current under-utilisation rate is maintained, this would equate to around 24,000 cancer patients will miss out on radiotherapy13
Patients who miss out on clinically appropriate radiotherapy treatments can be significantly affected.
The consequences for patients who are not able to access radiation oncology when clinically beneficial include:
- Compromised health outcomes;
- Premature death;
- Inadequate pain and symptom control and
- Reduced quality of life and increased suffering.
Furthermore, patients can still face long waiting times for radiotherapy treatment, even some patients who require urgent treatment.
There are important differences between radiotherapy techniques, which are used to deliver specific health advantages in particular clinical circumstances. Patient access to radiation oncology services is key, so is patient access to the appropriate radiotherapy techniques.