This report presents radiotherapy activity and waiting times data for 2018–19, from the Radiotherapy Waiting Times National Minimum Data Set Collection. In addition, data are presented for the previous collection years (covering the reference periods 2013–14 to 2018–19).

Interactive data are presented by collection year, on the:

  • number of courses
  • number of days patients waited at the 50th and 90th percentiles
  • proportion of courses where emergency radiotherapy treatment began either on the same or the next day.

Course and waiting times data are disaggregated by sex, and by:

  • age group 
  • intent of treatment
  • principal diagnosis
  • socioeconomic area
  • remoteness of residence of the person, and
  • state/territory and sector.

Note that as this report is for 2018–19 it does not cover the period which may have been affected by COVID. This time period will be covered in the next report and the effects of COVID on service provision will be explored.

What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy uses radiation directed at a localised area to kill or damage cancer cells. It is a well-established, effective and safe way to treat cancer and a small number of other conditions. There are several types of radiotherapy. This report focuses on megavoltage external beam radiotherapy delivered by linear accelerator machines.

Radiotherapy is a highly specialised treatment that radiation therapists deliver, supervised by a radiation oncologist (in consultation with a multidisciplinary team including other medical and allied health practitioners), and requiring specialised equipment. Radiotherapy may be used on its own or in conjunction with other treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy. About half of all patients with cancer could benefit from external beam radiotherapy (RANZCR 2015).

Radiotherapy is usually given as one outpatient treatment or a series of outpatient treatments over a defined period, though under some circumstances patients may be treated as admitted patients.