Access to oncology consultation in a cancer cohort in northeastern Ontario

M. Conlon, M. Hartman, B. Ballantyne, N. Aubin, M. Meigs, A. Knight



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.


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.


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.


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


health services accessibility; referral and consultation; rural health services; palliative care; medical records

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)