Long waits for diagnostic imaging expected to worsen
Issues with area cancer patients accessing diagnostic imaging are evident in a provincial report and only expected to get worse, says the head of Hamilton’s cancer centre.
Ontario aims to have 90 per cent or more of women aged 30 to 69 screened within 90 days of being confirmed as a high risk for breast cancer.
Only 17 per cent of women got an MRI in the target time frame in 2015 in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network, which includes Burlington.
It is a huge drop from 30 per cent the year before, reveals the annual report by the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario.
“This is a whole Ontario-wide issue with access to MR,” said Dr. Ralph Meyer, CEO of the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre. “Are we overusing MR for other purposes?” The Ontario average is also far off the target, with just under half of patients getting an MRI in time. No parts of the province came close, the highest rate being 73 per cent.
Compounding the issue is that women considered to be high risk have to be screened every year, so the burden just continues to grow.
“There is a lot of debate about that,” said Meyer. “The number of women increases considerably each year.”
The situation is not much better when it comes to computerized tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
Ontario’s target is for 90 per cent of esophageal cancer patients to have a CT or PET scan prior to curative treatment.
Just 67 per cent of patients got that scan between 2011 and 2015 in the Hamilton-area LHIN.
“As we move forward, this is going to be a stress,” said Meyer. “The demand is going to be a challenge.”
The provincial average was better than Hamilton’s at 78 per cent, but still well below the target.
“It’s being addressed at a provincial level,” said Meyer.
Juravinski has space ready for CT and PET scanners that would be dedicated to cancer patients, but there is no capital money to buy them. “We’re not in a position to move forward on this,” said Meyer.