The scenarios where radiotherapy can be used for curative (and palliative) treatment of cancer have steadily increased, and radiotherapy now forms a part of the treatment of more than 50% of all cancer patients. However, in many countries, treatment capacity is exceeded and access to treatment is a major problem. This was the conclusion of three leading European radiation oncologists who were jointly presenting their findings at the 23rd Meeting of the European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology here today (Tuesday 26th October).
According to Prof Michael Baumann (UK Carl Gustav Carus, Dresden, Germany), Prof Ann Barrett (University of East Anglia School of Medicine, Norwich, UK), Dr Ole Nielsen (Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark) and Dr Søren Bentzen (Gray Cancer Institute, Northwood, UK) there is a wealth of experimental and clinical data which indicates that cure rates decrease with increasing waiting time for radiotherapy. “Increasing demand without increasing the resources to match, results in patients welfare being jeopardised”, explained Prof Baumann. “Increased waiting times can result in tumours growing beyond a curative size or in tumours metastasising. For tumours to grow beyond a curable size takes weeks or even months”, emphasised Prof Baumann. “But in some countries waiting times of this length are not uncommon and urgent action needs to be taken if all patients are to have equal access to optimal care”.
In very few EU countries do the number of linear accelerators (machines used to deliver radiotherapy) match the number known to be required to adequately provide treatment. In those few countries with national guidelines to govern the numbers of linear accelerators per head of population, none have achieved the target set out in the guidelines.
Stuart Bell | alfa
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