Malfunctioning machine leaves patients in limbo
Twelve years removed from surgery for lung cancer, Janis Walsh is anxiously waiting to chart a treatment plan for her second bout with cancer.“It just kind of mystifies me that you should have to wait so long for one test that keeps everything else from moving forward,” Walsh said at her home in Regina on Friday.That “one test” is a PET (positron emission tomography) scan, to see if the cancer has spread from her right-side chest wall and seventh rib.Until that test has been done, her doctors won’t know how to proceed with her treatment.When Walsh last met with an oncologist at the Allan Blair Cancer Centre on Dec. 21, staff let it slip that Saskatchewan’s lone PET machine, located at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital, was down.“I was told it would be a couple of weeks” to be scheduled for a PET scan, said Walsh.Now four weeks removed from her first appointment with an oncologist, and 6 ½ weeks removed from her Stage 4 diagnosis, Walsh is anxious and stressed about her future.“I still even haven’t had so much as a phone call,” said Walsh.Walsh doesn’t know if she’ll have surgery, or if she should expect six weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy. She said her oncologist suggested both as options, depending on the PET scan results.When she had lung cancer in December 2006, surgery was enough to cure it.“I think about people, other people in my situation — and I’m sure there’s hundreds of them out there that are going through the same thing that I am. And I just feel like it has to change,” she said, crying.In an emailed statement, the Saskatchewan Health Authority confirmed the PET machine was affected for seven days in December, postponing scans for 69 patients.Between Dec. 3 and 10, “There were disruptions … due to a supplier being unable to provide a regularly scheduled shipment of a radiopharmaceutical. This resulted in scans being affected for a total of six days.“We were able to do a few scans on one of the six days after accessing a small amount of radiopharmaceutical from a different supplier.“Of the 57 patients affected during this time frame, the most urgent patients have already been scanned or been rebooked.”In late December, an equipment malfunction halted service for one day, impacting 12 patients.“We are continuing to work to have appointments rebooked for all patients affected by the disruptions as quickly as possible. The Saskatchewan Health Authority will be getting additional radiopharmaceuticals and will be bringing in additional staff to assist with this effort.”In the meantime, Walsh wonders why there is only one PET scan machine to serve the entire province.She said she phoned the Allan Blair on Friday afternoon and was told the PET scans are 11 weeks behind.“It’s a big province and there’s a lot of people that are diagnosed with cancer all the time and it obviously is a very important piece of equipment that is needed,” said Walsh.“I think they need to have a backup plan for people that are sitting and waiting. … The waiting is the hardest part, the not knowing.”Walsh said she has started to lose hope in this situation. “And believe me, if cancer patients need anything, it’s hope and encouragement going forward.”The SHA stated that the current PET scanner, installed in 2013, is enough to serve Saskatchewan patients “within targeted time frames,” according to population projections and demand forecasts.
Janis Walsh of Regina has been waiting for more than three weeks for a PET scan to determine the treatment method for her cancer.
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