January 22, 2014 07:37 pm
A real doctor would tend to post stuff like this, 29 minutes ago | Vote 0 0 Ontario’s oncologist shortage means 5,700 cancer patients not getting radiation Theresa Boyle TORONTO — More than 5,700 Ontario cancer patients are not getting radiation treatment — including palliative patients who need it for pain relief — because of a shortage of radiation oncologists, according to an association representing the specialists. "There are patients who could clearly benefit from radiation who are not receiving it," said Dr. David D'Souza, chair of the Ontario Association of Radiation Oncologists. Patients get other treatments instead, even though radiation is preferable, he explained. For instance, palliative patients can get painkillers, but they have strong side effects. "Our feeling is it would be a better quality of life to have your pain alleviated with a short course of radiation so you can go back to doing the things you were doing rather than be on high amounts of pain medication that make you feel off," D'Souza said. Cancer Care Ontario, which organizes cancer services in the province, acknowledges that its radiation target is not being met. Some 48 per cent of cancer patients should get radiation, but fewer than 40 per cent do. There were 72,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Ontario last year. There are now 185 radiation oncologists working in the province. Cancer Care Ontario advised the province to hire four more radiation oncologists last year, four or five more in the fiscal year ending at the end of March, and five more in each of the next three years. Meantime, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada said there are many underemployed and underemployed radiation oncologists. Dr. Padraig Warde, interim vice president of clinical programs at Cancer Care Ontario, denies there is a shortage. "If there was a shortage, there would be a long wait to be seen radiation oncologists," he argued, noting 87 per cent of patients see the specialists within 14 days of being referred. But D'Souza said the waiting list numbers don't take into account that many patients who need radiation never get referred in the first place. As well, he said radiation oncologists are overworked, with most seeing more than 300 new patients annually when they should be only seeing a maximum of 280. Warde acknowledged Cancer Care Ontario would like to have more radiation treatment available for palliative patients. "We feel the real gap is likely in patients who, toward the end of life, might benefit from radiation treatment to control pain or other issues. However there are other treatments they can have," he said. Warde said radiation oncology has come a long way over the years in Ontario. At the ends of the 1990s, Ontario was sending patients to the United States for radiation because it couldn't meet the demand here, he noted. And just five to seven years ago, only 34 per cent of cancer patients were getting radiation, he pointed out. The pinch is being felt across the province, including at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre which plans to treat 6,900 cancer patients with radiation this year, up from about 6,000 last year, said Dr. Gregory Czarnota, chief of radiation oncology. Dr. Arjun Sahgal, deputy chief of radiation oncology at Sunnybrook, said he can't treat as many patients as he would like with radio surgery, which allows him to precisely target brain tumours with high doses of radiation. He does whole-brain radiation instead, which is faster, but also affects healthy tissue and causes problems such as memory loss. News services
January 22, 2014 07:40 pm
Stock house is suddenly nervous about reposting intellectual property....here's the link http://www.therecord.com/news-story/4329450-ontario-s-oncologist-shortage-means-5-700-cancer-patients-not-getting-radiation/
January 23, 2014 02:12 am
Dan, I can identify with this story. My wife went through 18 months of opiate type pain killers after cancer surgery and without radiation for 13 of those months. They finally gave her radiation after the 13 months and it got rid of the pain but they kept her on the drugs not wanting to stop the process, just in case. As the article suggests the pain killer drugs are supposed to give a better quality of life than living in pain. Problem is the drugs create a poor quality of life in themselves. My wife had about 3 months pain free but not drug free before I lost her early last year.
I believe there has to be a better way ... but I'm not a doctor.