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Access to oncology consultation in a cancer cohort in northeastern Ontario

Conlon M, Hartman M, Ballantyne B, Aubin N, Meigs M, Knight A. Curr Oncol. 2015; 22(2):e69-75.


Background — To enhance cancer symptom management for residents of Sudbury–Manitoulin District, an ambulatory palliative clinic (pac) was established at the Northeast Cancer Centre of Health Sciences North. The pac is accessed from a medical or radiation oncology consultation. The primary purpose of the present population-based retrospective study was to estimate the percentage of cancer patients who died without ever having a medical or radiation oncology consultation. A secondary purpose was to determine factors associated with never having received one of those specialized consultations.

Methods — Administrative data was obtained through the Ontario Cancer Data Linkage Project. For each index case, we constructed a timeline, in days, of all Ontario Health Insurance Plan billing codes and associated service dates starting with the primary cancer diagnosis and ending with death.

Results — Within the 5-year study period (2004–2008), 6683 people in the area of interest with a valid record of primary cancer diagnosis died from any cause. Most (n = 5988, 89.6%) had 1 primary cancer diagnosis. For that subgroup, excluding those with a disease duration of 0 days (n = 67), about 18.4% (n = 1088) never had a consultation with a medical or radiation oncologist throughout their disease trajectory. Patients who were older or who resided in a rural area were significantly less likely to have had a consultation.

Conclusions — Specific strategies directed toward older and rural patients might help to address this important access-to-care issue.

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Keywords: Rural/northern health services Access to health care Cancer Palliative care/End-of-life care

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