Ireland now has a two-tier cancer care service, a leading charity has warned.
A new study by The Irish Cancer Society has found some public patients are waiting up to 480 days for an ultrasound.
The report also found that public patients wait an average of 126 days for an MRI scan - with private patients waiting for just six days.
Donal Buggy, head of services and advocacy with the society, said that GPs are being put in a difficult situation.
"GPs are faced with a very difficult task of getting access for their patients," he said.
"We know that where there are serious concerns, four out of five family doctors have sent patients to an emergency department in order to bypass waiting times, and this is obviously unsustainable."
The Irish Cancer Society says that this report highlights a stark divide between those who can afford to pay for private health insurance and those who cannot.
“The grim reality of our health care system is that the difference between life and death can come down to your ability to pay for healthcare,” said MR Buggy.
According to the report, 88.5% of GPs surveyed said that ability to pay affected a patient’s access to referral services.
“We know from the many cancer patients and survivors who have shared their stories with us, that our two-tier system of health care leads to huge differences in outcomes based on whether you can afford to pay for private health insurance or not.
“This report makes clear that GPs working right across the country and in all socioeconomic areas, face a struggle in securing timely tests to diagnose public patients”.