Waiting times for patients who have cancer are a serious issue. A delayed checkup or procedure could be fatal. Of the 8.2 million cancer victims every year, there’s no doubt that a significant number of those deaths were preventable if it wasn’t for overstretched health systems.
We’re going to look at whether patients are waiting too long to find out if they had cancer. And what can be done about the issue?
Are Patients Waiting Too Long?
The answer is yes. Take the public healthcare system of the UK as an example. The average waiting time for someone to be diagnosed with cancer reached 40 days, which for aggressive forms of cancer can make it impossible for a patient to survive.
Take mesothelioma as an example. This increasingly common type of asbestos-related cancer is incredibly aggressive and the majority of patients don’t survive mesothelioma for five years following diagnosis. Imagine the difference that could be made if waiting times were shorter.
So, yes, waiting times are far too long.
Cancer Patients Should Be a Priority
With millions of people dying of cancer every single year, and 340,000 new cancer cases in the US alone, this is a global health crisis. And an increasing amount of evidence demonstrates that many of these deaths could be avoidable with early diagnosis.
The answer is to provide dedicated divisions in healthcare for those who have cancer. Alternatively, general health checkups should always include an automatic check for cancer.
Promoting Health Checks
A big problem in the US is a lot of people don’t have general health checkups covered by their health insurance. And that’s assuming people have health insurance at all. A significant part of the population isn’t able to afford a checkup, or they’re unwilling to.
The big answer to reducing cancer wait times is to make sure the signs of cancer are spotted early. For cancers like mesothelioma, this is difficult because the latency period can be up to 50 years. But for other cancers, it’s relatively simple to notice the early signs of cancer.
So it’s necessary to reduce both the cost and to increase awareness.
Is the Answer to Reducing Wait Times in Training More Doctors?
It’s only part of the answer, but it’s a big part of it. Across the world healthcare systems are strained because life expectancies have increased significantly over the years. It often takes weeks to simply get an appointment with one’s personal physician.
Only richer patients who can afford premium access to a private physician are exempt from this. For the majority, the waiting periods are exasperated by more patients and a lack of staff.
Governments must be able to provide the funding to train more doctors and to subsidize private healthcare providers to increase the number of staff they have.
Last Word – What’s the Solution?
The solution is two-fold. It’s clear that patients are waiting too long to find out if they have cancer. With aggressive cancers, this makes it even more difficult for people to live longer with a good quality of life. And in many cases a preventable cause of cancer becomes fatal.
It’s necessary to increase both access to health checks and to improve awareness of pursuing a check. But there have to be more doctors to meet demand.
And that can only come from governments helping to fund both the training and employment of these new physicians.