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Saskatchewan announces plan to streamline breast cancer care

REGINA — The Saskatchewan government has announced it’s opening a new health centre in Regina to help breast cancer patients get screened sooner.

The province says the centre will tackle backlogs by providing a one-stop spot for people to access care, including diagnostic imaging, consultations and post-treatment. 

The new centre is scheduled to open early next year and the province is to provide details on its cost in this month’s budget.

It’s to also allow those in their 40s to access screening, which was previously only available to people 50 and older.

The province says the age requirements will be reduced over time in a phased approach. 

Health Minister Everett Hindley says the province decided to act after noticing wait times for breast cancer care ballooned. 

Dr. Sarah Miller, a surgeon in Regina, said a central hub has been lacking in southern Saskatchewan and the centre will help streamline care.

“The worst part about a cancer diagnosis is the wait, not having a plan, not knowing what’s happening,” Miller told a news conference.

“With having a centralized service, we hopefully can provide wait-time estimates and also give patients updates. It’s all going to go into a pool service, so you’re going to get the fastest access possible.”

Last year, Saskatchewan announced plans to send patients to a private clinic in Calgary for scans.

Hindley said the temporary measure has already seen 131 patients have their diagnostic procedures completed. 

He said he did not know what the average wait is currently for scans or surgery.

More surgeons are to start in July, he said, and contracts have been signed with three general surgeons to do breast cancer care.

Along with the new centre, the province announced a new technology that lets surgeons implant biopsy probes without the need to insert a wire.

Miller said the implanted probe is more comfortable for patients and doesn’t move.

“You don’t have to worry about the morning of your surgery. And so this is where it’s really convenient for our patients that are saying, ‘Oh, I want to have my surgery in Moose Jaw,'” she said.

“They don’t have to have a wire and have that on the highway when they’re driving into their hospital. So that’s incredibly exciting for us.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024.

Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press

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