In Denmark, implementing a national fast track system for cancer patients reduced the waiting time between a patient’s initial meeting with a health care provider and their first treatment by four weeks when comparing 2010 to 2002, according to a study presented at the Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium, sponsored by AHNS, ASCO, ASTRO and SNM.
Denmark’s health care system is state run, meaning health care services are funded by taxes with no out-of-pocket costs to patients. Many similar health care systems in western countries are plagued by long waiting times for surgery and radiation therapy, which can lead to significant tumor progression for head and neck cancer patients and as a result an increased risk of local recurrence and death.
In 2008, a new fast track program was implemented, where cancer patients and potential cancer patients were given the highest priority in the Danish health care system. Also, telephone hotlines, reserved slots in ENT and radiology, faster pathology reporting, and twice weekly multidisciplinary tumor boards and clinics were implemented and paper referrals eliminated to curb the increasing wait times.
Researchers from the Danish Head and Neck Cancer Group (DAHANCA) compared data from 474 patients treated in 2002 or 2010, before and after the fast track program, respectively. The median treatment time from first contact with health care provider to initial treatment was 41 days in 2010, reduced significantly from 69 days in 2002.
“Although it is still too early to tell if the shorter waiting period has a significant effect on tumor control or survival, our study shows that the treatment waiting period can be significantly reduced by prioritizing cancer patients and that most patient and health care professionals are satisfied with the fast track system,” Cai Grau, MD, DMSc, lead author of the study and a professor of radiation oncology at Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark, said. “This reduced waiting period will more than likely lead to a decrease in tumor progression and lower a patient’s risk of local recurrence and death, which ultimately will reduce the government’s costs for treating a cancer patient.”
The abstract, “Significant reduction in waiting time for diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancer in Denmark in 2010 compared to 2002. First results of the Danish national fast track program for cancer,” will be presented on Friday, January 27, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time. To speak with one of the study authors, contact Beth Bukata or Nicole Napoli on January 26-27, 2012, in the press room at the Arizona Biltmore at 602-912-7854 or 703-839-7336.
About the American Head and Neck Society
The American Head and Neck Society (AHNS) is the single largest organization in North America for the advancement of research and education in head and neck oncology. The purpose of the AHNS is to promote and advance the knowledge of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of neoplasms and other diseases of the head and neck; to promote and advance research in diseases of the head and neck; and to promote and advance the highest professional and ethical standards.
About the American Society of Clinical Oncology
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is the world’s leading professional organization representing physicians who care for people with cancer. With more than 30,000 members, ASCO is committed to improving cancer care through scientific meetings, educational programs and peer-reviewed journals. ASCO is supported by its affiliate organization, the Conquer Cancer Foundation, which funds ground-breaking research and programs that make a tangible difference in the lives of people with cancer. For ASCO information and resources, visit www.asco.org. Patient-oriented cancer information is available at www.cancer.net.
About the American Society for Radiation Oncology
The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) is the largest radiation oncology society in the world, with more than 10,000 members who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As the leading organization in radiation oncology, biology and physics, the Society is dedicated to improving patient care through education, clinical practice, advancement of science and advocacy. For more information on radiation therapy, visit www.rtanswers.org. To learn more about ASTRO, visit www.astro.org.
About SNM—Advancing Molecular Imaging and Therapy
SNM is an international scientific and medical organization dedicated to raising public awareness about what molecular imaging is and how it can help provide patients with the best health care possible. SNM members specialize in molecular imaging, a vital element of today’s medical practice that adds an additional dimension to diagnosis, changing the way common and devastating diseases are understood and treated.