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How we Report Radiation Wait Times

Cancer Care Ontario has been reporting radiation wait times on its web site for four years.

Wait times are reported for two intervals

1. Referral to consult: The time between a referral to a specialist to the time that specialist consults with the patient

2. Ready to treat to treatment: The time from when the specialist is confident the patient is ready to begin treatment to the time the patient receives treatment

These two steps of the cancer treatment process pose different challenges for patients and health care providers. By measuring each interval separately, we can better understand and resolve the bottlenecks at each step.

New Wait Time Intervals diagram

Wait Time Targets

  • Ontario has established targets for radiation therapy based on the priority of the cancer. Targets represent the optimal length of time within which patients should be treated. Some cancers are more aggressive and should be treated more quickly, while others are slow growing and do not need as immediate attention. The website now reports the percentage of patients who receive radiation within Ontario’s recommended wait time targets for all priority categories combined.
  • Ontario’s targets are more aggressive than the Provincial Territorial (PT) benchmark. When the PT benchmarks were announced in fall 2005, each province was given the flexibility to establish more aggressive provincial targets. For example, the PT radiation therapy benchmark is four weeks from “ready to treat to start of treatment". Ontario’s target for priority 3 – which includes most radiation patients – is 2 weeks from “ready to treat to treatment." Ontario’s radiation target is endorsed by Cancer Care Ontario’s Expert Wait Time Committee and consistent with the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncologists’ standard.

Frequency of Reporting

  • Wait Time trend information that indicates whether radiation wait times are improving over time is updated twice a year in the winter (when Ontario Cancer Plan is released) and in the spring (in the Cancer System Quality Index). Trend data were previously presented using the “referral to treat to start of treatment” interval. They are now presented using the two new intervals.
  • Wait times by target are updated monthly, and are shown by province, by regional cancer centre and by type of cancer.
Last modified: Wed, Feb 18, 2009
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