Hospital Surgery Waiting Times
New data released in October 2014 on the Federal Government's My Hospitals website shows most bowel cancer patients (88%) on the public hospital waiting list receive their surgery within the recommended 30 days.
However the data does not tell the whole story for bowel cancer patients - with no information available in the report on private hospital waiting times.
The National Health Performance Authority's (NHPA) report into Hospital Performance: cancer surgery waiting times in public hospitals in 2012-13 covers bowel, lung and breast cancer - three of the most common malignant cancers.
It found 96 per cent of breast cancer patients received their surgery within 30 days and 90%of lung cancer patients. Overall, 92% of cancer surgeries were performed within 30 days and 97%within 45 days.
Bowel Cancer Australia chief executive Mr Julien Wiggins said the fact that the majority of bowel cancer patients were receiving their surgery within the recommended 30 days was good news.
"Most of those 4,533 bowel cancer patients would have been reassured that they were receiving surgery reasonably quickly."
"Unfortunately, the data also shows that 216 bowel cancer patients did not receive timely surgery. They remained on the public hospital waiting lists for longer than 45 days."
Mr Wiggins said he would like to see more comprehensive data detailing the full bowel cancer journey from screening to diagnosis and treatment.
"Time on the hospital waiting list is just one component of cancer care. For example, we really need to know how long people are waiting between a positive bowel cancer screening test or seeing their doctor about symptoms and accessing colonoscopies that will provide a definitive diagnosis."
"We know that timely access to colonoscopies was flagged as a workforce issue in 2005 prior to the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program being introduced. This is a critical piece of the puzzle."
Mr Wiggins said with bowel cancer survival rates lagging behind that of other common cancers, it was reasonable for the bowel cancer community to be asking more questions of the health care system.
"Bowel cancer patients have a five year survival rate of 66 per cent compared to 89 per cent for breast cancer patients. So we need to find improvements at every stage of the cancer journey from earlier diagnosis, to timely surgery, more treatment options and better supportive care."
"We also need to know the facts on patients treated in private hospitals as they represent about 60 per cent of total cancer surgeries," he said.
The NHPA report found cancer patients were not disadvantaged with respect to waiting times by being treated in regional hospitals rather than metropolitan facilities.