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‘A scary feeling’: Sask. woman concerned about wait times for breast cancer assessment | CBC News

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Lyndia Kakakaway expects to wait at least a year for a breast cancer assessment in Saskatchewan. 

She has already had cancer twice, including a breast cancer diagnosis in 1986 and another form of cancer in 2002. Now, she feels a painful lump in her chest and has not confirmed whether the cancer has returned.

“It’s a scary feeling for me. I have nine children and 11 grandchildren,” she told reporters Monday. She said she has been waiting since late summer.

The province offered Kakakaway the chance to receive care at a private clinic in Calgary, a strategy it introduced last year to manage growing wait times in the province. It contracted the private health company Clearpoint to offer 1,000 scans, with the contract in place until March 2025. In November, the province said it planned to spend about $3.5 million covering patients’ medical and travel expenses.

As of Feb. 23, 188 patients have been referred to the clinic and about 131 have had their diagnostic procedures completed, the province said last week.

Kakakaway turned it down. She said the eight-hour trip would be too strenuous on her.

“And I don’t know why I should when the services are offered here in Regina,” she told reporters Monday.

Kakakaway stood beside Saskatchewan NDP’s Meara Conway, who was among the Opposition speakers who slammed the provincial government for Saskatchewan’s long wait times during question period in the Legislature, just before speaking with reporters.

Two women stand beside each other, one in front of a microphone
NDP MLA Meara Conway, left, stands beside Lyndia Kakakaway as she talks about her struggles waiting for breast cancer assessment and a knee replacement. (CBC)

Conway said she was disappointed Health Minister Everett Hindley was touting the province’s programs, investments and plans to improve breast cancer assessment.

“This is cold comfort to people like Lyndia who need action now, and really we see no plan coming from this government for some of the immediate need out there,” Conway said. 

Conway also criticized the province’s wait times for knee and hip surgery. Kakakaway is expecting to wait at least a year for a surgery to fix the “non-stop pain” in her knee.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 23 per cent of knee replacement patients in Saskatchewan were treated within the benchmark (26 weeks) from April 1 to Sept. 30, 2022. It’s the lowest percentage among Canadian provinces in that time.

The province’s own data shows that from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2023, 36 per cent of all knee replacement surgeries were performed within the benchmark.

In November, Hindley said average wait time for breast cancer screenings was about 10 weeks.

Hindley said he also committed to sitting down with Kakakaway about her situation.

During question period, he said the province is working to put more resources into screening, diagnostics and treatment, including recently recruiting surgeons to work in Regina.

He referenced last week’s announcement of the breast health centre in Regina, meant to expand screening eligibility and improve wait times.

During question period, Hindley also challenged the NDP to state how they would manage the surgical wait times, though the Opposition did not provide an answer.

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