A Regina woman wonders for 45 weeks if she might have breast cancer.
Nadine Baker has had symptoms of breast cancer since March 2023. Due to the high number of wait times for screening in Saskatchewan, she has still not been screened for cancer or received a diagnosis.
“It’s an ongoing concern,” Baker said at a news conference Monday alongside NDP Leader Carla Beck. “I watched my mother go through breast cancer, so I know what it’s like: the sooner you’re diagnosed, the better the outcome.”
Baker was referred for a diagnostic mammogram in March and did not receive a call about the mammogram until January 5.
During that phone call, Baker was asked if she would consider traveling out of the province to get the mammogram.
“I said, ‘Yes, absolutely, 100 percent.’ I don’t care where I have to go,” Baker said. “The option I was given was Calgary, but they still don’t have an appointment, they just asked me if I was OK.”
Saskatchewan. the government sends some patients out of the province
In November 2023, the Government of Saskatchewan announced that it would begin sending people to Calgary to undergo a breast cancer diagnostic procedure, due to limited capacity to offer this procedure in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan government has contracted Clearpoint, a private health care company in Calgary, to help Saskatchewan residents on an urgent waiting list to receive a diagnosis.
“We have had a number of people, several hundred have been contacted and given the option and the contact continues to this day where teams are reaching out to the women who are on that list,” said Monday the Saskatchewan Health Minister Everett Hindley.
“It is my understanding that 45 patients have already undergone diagnostic procedures in Calgary.”
Hindley said 148 women on the list were contacted about their availability to make an appointment and travel to Calgary.
Training additional radiologists in Regina would help speed up the process, Hindley said. However, Regina only has three surgeons who perform surgeries on breast cancer patients.
“The work is being undertaken by the teams to ensure that we are working to recruit these positions,” he said.
“I asked the teams if they could reach out to other radiologists who might be interested in this training, if necessary, so that we could offer this service.”
Earlier this winter, the Saskatchewan government received funding to develop new technology for radiologists to make the breast cancer screening process more comfortable, called location of breast seeds.
During this procedure, a tiny metal seed is placed in the abnormal breast tissue to locate where the abnormality is located. Previously, radiologists in Saskatchewan used a metal wire, which is a more uncomfortable procedure, according to the health minister.
Hindley hopes that training more radiologists and using new technology will improve the quality of the procedure and reduce wait times.
“We are working to reduce these wait times, which frankly are unacceptable when it comes to breast cancer,” he said.
Hindley hopes to have the new technology in place by February.