Patients requiring urgent radiotherapy usually treated within a day, others wait less than two weeks

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that most patients who receive radiotherapy wait less than two weeks for treatment and that almost all emergency cases begin their treatment on the same or the next day.

'Radiotherapy is an important type of cancer treatment, which uses radiation to kill or damage cancer cells,' said AIHW spokesperson Clara Jellie.

Radiotherapy was delivered at 72 locations in Australia in 2013-14, 53 of which provided data to the report. These services delivered almost 47,700 courses of radiotherapy in 2013‒14.

The report, Radiotherapy in Australia: report on a pilot data collection 2013-14, is the first national report on radiotherapy services and waiting times. The pilot data collection shows that breast, prostate and lung cancers were the most common types of cancer among people starting courses of radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy can be curative (intended to cure disease), palliative (to control pain or other symptoms), or prophylactic (to prevent further disease). For just over half (53%) the people who started radiotherapy in 2013-14, treatment was intended to be curative, while for 40% treatment was palliative.

Nationally, 2% of courses of radiotherapy were clinically assessed to be emergency cases (that is, that treatment should begin within 24 hours).

For the 41 service providers for which waiting times data were available, half of patients overall waited for 12 days or less, with 90% of patients waiting for 31 days or less.

'For those who needed emergency treatment, 90% began treatment on the same day or the next day. For non-emergency treatment, 50% started treatment within 13 days and 90% within 33 days,' Ms Jellie said.

Half of patients undergoing curative treatment began treatment within 18 days, with 90% starting within 35 days.

Treatment began within 7 days for half of palliative patients, with 90% starting treatment within 21 days.

The AIHW is continuing to work with public and private sector radiotherapy data providers to improve the quality of these data.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 11 November 2015 

Further information: Ms Clara Jellie AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1250; mob. 0410 248 288