Although wait time for cancer patients in Ontario for radiation has fallen, wait times for chemotherapy are staying steady despite the increasing need. These were the results of a study released by the provincial agency that co-ordinates treatment.
Cancer Care Ontario has reported that the system quality index launched last year showed a drop in the median wait time for radiation treatment to 4.7 weeks, from seven weeks in 2002.
However chemotherapy wait times in Ontario have shown no changes over the past four years.
According to the agency vice-president Dr. Carol Sawka and Health Minister George Smitherman, the very fact that chemotherapy wait times have remained stable is a positive sign demonstrating that despite the substantial increase in the number of patients requiring chemotherapy, ability to address the problem has also increased.
However the New Democrats health critic Shelly Martel is not so optimistic. She says 'Holding our own is probably not good enough for people who are on a waiting list worried about what their success rate is going to be as they wait for treatment.'
The Cancer Care report has also revealed that Ontario lags far behind most jurisdictions even in colorectal cancer screening which has a death rate of over 3,000 Ontario residents a year.
Since the probability of curing colorectal cancer lies mainly in its early detection Opposition leader John Tory has been openly critical about the slow pace of colorectal screening program by the Liberals in the province.
The Cancer report has also shown Ontario to have only 56 per cent of their women for breast cancer screening in contrast to the 75 per cent of women in the United Kingdom and the United States.
The number of Ontario residents diagnosed with cancer is expected to reach 86,000 people a year within a decade.
However despite all this, the agency has also found an increased number of patients surviving their battles against cancer.
According to Cancer Care chief executive Terry Sullivan. 'We need to find better mechanisms to integrate community services, hospice care and death at home into our range of options for cancer patients.'
Cancer Care Ontario has also advocated a program to tackle high obesity rates along the lines of its anti-tobacco initiative, both of which carry the threat of cancer.
A rise in the number of Ontario cancer patients, participating in clinical trials of the latest, leading-edge drugs and treatments have also been revealed in this report.