NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Canadian Women Wait For Breast Cancer Treatment

May 14, 2001

Early detection and treatment has been the heavily promoted weapon in the battle against breast cancer over the last decade. But Canadian researchers have found that earlier diagnosis does not necessarily lead to earlier treatment -- with the waiting time between the two actually increasing in recent years in the province of Quebec.

Using public medical records, researchers examined the length of time the province's patients have been made to wait between an initial diagnosis of breast cancer and the first surgical treatment.

The researchers indicate that almost 14 percent of the women experienced a waiting period of longer than 90 days -- with those between the ages of 40 and 64 years waiting longer than women in older or younger age groups.

  • Those with more advanced-stage breast cancer were found to have spent less time waiting for surgery than those with early-stage disease.
  • However, the investigators also identified trends towards longer waiting times overall, with an individual who may have typically waited 29 days in 1992 being made to wait 42 days in 1998 -- a 37 percent increase.

Mayo and her colleagues suggest that a rise in breast cancer incidence, an aging population, an increase in testing options, as well as a simultaneous drop in medical funding and resources may all have contributed to the longer waiting times. And while the researchers emphasize that no ideal waiting period -- in terms of survival rates -- has ever been scientifically proven, they conclude that the trend towards increases is not a good sign.

Source: Mayo et al., "Waiting Time For Breast Cancer Surgery in Quebec," Canadian Medical Association Journal, April 17, 2001.

 

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