ACT News

ACT achieves targets for cancer surgery waiting times

More than 90 per cent of patients with malignant bowel, breast and lung cancer in the ACT received surgery within a recommended 30-day period, a major report has found. 

Recent data also shows the ACT saw an improvement in median waiting times for all three types of cancer surgeries. 

Median waiting times for malignant bowel cancer at Canberra Hospital fell from 21 days in 2011-12 to 17 days in 2012-13, while at Calvary there was an improvement from 23 days to 14 days.

For malignant breast cancer, median waiting times at Calvary Hospital declined by three days to 15 days in 2012-13 while for lung cancer surgery at Canberra Hospital, it dropped from 13 days in 2011-12 to eight days in 2012-13.

There were 244 surgeries for malignant bowel, breast and lung cancer performed in 2012-13 at Canberra and Calvary hospitals. 

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the  National Health Performance Authority report, released on Thursday, showed people in the ACT who required cancer surgery were getting their operations within clinically recommended timeframes. 

"Cancer is a disease which affects many in our community either directly or indirectly and it's good to see people who need this critical surgery are having their operations quickly and within clinically recommended timeframes," she said. 

"It's also good to see our two local hospitals performing strongly when compared to similar hospitals interstate." 

Ms Gallagher said the ACT had tracked "really well" in terms of surgeries performed according to clinical urgency. 

"There's no doubt they (these cancer patients) need their operations quickly and their doctors are prioritising them and it's getting done," she said.  

All surgeries for malignant lung cancer patients in the ACT were performed within the recommended 30-day period. 

For malignant bowel cancer and breast cancer, 96 per cent of patients in the territory had their operation within required timeframes. There were 105 breast cancer surgeries performed in 2012-13. 

"The results in this report show that across our public hospitals, patients requiring surgery as part of their cancer treatment are getting their operations quickly and in line with the treating doctors' recommendations," Ms Gallagher said.

The report found that nationally 92 per cent of patients in 2012-13 needing surgery for malignant breast, bowel or lung cancers were treated within 30 days and almost all – 97 per cent – had their operations with 45 days.  More than 32,000 people had surgery for malignant bowel, breast or lung cancer at public hospitals in Australia in 2012-13, the report said. 

Malignant refers to cancers which have the ability to progress to a more serious disease and spread to surrounding tissue or other organs if left untreated, 

The report also showed there were 216 bowel cancer patients nationally who waited longer than 45 days for their surgery compared to 102 breast cancer patients and 28 lung cancer patients. 

Across the three types of cancer surgery, five public hospitals took up to 60 days, two up to 75 days and three up to 90 days before at least 90 per cent of their parents received their surgeries.

Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Stephen Parnis said cancer surgery was typically regarded as urgent and it was pleasing most surgeries were provided within recommended timeframes. 

"To not operate on it would make the cancer grow, spread, increase the likelihood of complications, worsen survival so it generally is an urgent operation and it is pleasing we generally hit the mark with cancer patients," he said. 

Dr Parnis said the figures for cancer surgery in the ACT were good news for patients in the territory. 

The ACT government opened a new cancer centre in August and provided $8.4 million for extra cancer services in this year's budget.