A Regina woman is going on 45 weeks of wondering if she may have breast cancer.
Nadine Baker has been experiencing breast cancer symptoms since March 2023. Due to a high volume of screening wait times in Saskatchewan, she still hasn’t been screened for cancer or received a diagnosis.
“It’s a constant worry,” Baker said at a press conference Monday alongside NDP Leader Carla Beck. “I saw my mom go through breast cancer. So I know what the picture looks like, the sooner you get diagnosed, the better your outcome.”
Baker was referred for a diagnostic mammogram back in March and didn’t receive a call regarding the mammogram until Jan. 5.
During that phone call, Baker was asked if she would consider travelling out of province to receive the mammogram.
“I said, ‘yes, absolutely, 100 per cent.’ I don’t care where I’ve got to go,” Baker said. “The option I was given was Calgary, but they still don’t have an appointment, just asked if I would be willing.”
Sask. government sending some patients out of province
In November 2023, the Saskatchewan government announced it would begin sending people to Calgary to receive a breast cancer diagnostic procedure, due to a limited capacity to offer the procedure in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan government contracted Clearpoint, a private health company in Calgary, for Saskatchewan residents on an urgent wait list to receive a diagnosis.
“We have had a number of people, several hundred have been contacted and provided with the option and the contact continues to this day where teams are reaching out to women who are on this list,” Saskatchewan Health Minister Everett Hindley said Monday.
“It’s my understanding that 45 patients have already had their diagnostic procedures done in Calgary.”
Hindley said 148 women have been contacted from the list for their availability to book an appointment and make the trip to Calgary.
Training additional radiologists in Regina would help speed up the process, Hindley said. However, Regina only has three surgeons who perform surgeries for breast cancer patients.
“The work is being undertaken by the teams to ensure that we’re working to recruit those positions,” he said.
“I’ve asked the teams if they can reach out to other radiologists who may perhaps be interested in whatever it is taking that training, if necessary, in order to be able to offer this service.”
Earlier this winter, the Saskatchewan government received funding to go toward a new technology for radiologists to make the breast cancer screening process more comfortable, called breast seed localization.
During this procedure, a tiny metal seed is placed into abnormal breast tissue to locate where the abnormality lies. Previously, Saskatchewan radiologists had been using a metal wire, which is a more uncomfortable procedure, according to the health minister.
Hindley hopes that training more radiologists and utilizing new technology will improve the quality of the procedure and cut back on wait times.
“We’re working to make sure that we get those wait times down and they’re frankly unacceptable levels when it comes to this issue with respect to breast cancer,” he said.
Hindley hopes the new technology will be in place by February.