SASKATCHEWAN ADDRESSING BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSTIC WAIT TIMES

New Initiative to Immediately Increase Patient Access to Urgent Diagnostics

The Government of Saskatchewan is taking immediate action to ensure patients have access to urgent breast cancer diagnostic procedures while ongoing work continues to improve current service levels closer to home. 

The highest-risk patients have been identified and are receiving diagnostic care here in Saskatchewan. However, eligible patients on an urgent wait list for breast cancer diagnosis will be able to receive procedures out-of-province at a private medical facility in Calgary. 

A process to identify and proactively contact patients individually will begin immediately. This out-of-province care will be coordinated by the Regina Breast Assessment Centre.

“We are thankful for the hard work and dedication of Saskatchewan health care teams who continue to provide these important services in the province,” Health Minister Everett Hindley said. “That being said, current essential diagnostic testing wait times are unacceptable for Saskatchewan residents and immediate action must be taken.”

“Women in this province have raised concerns about the wait times for breast cancer diagnostics,” breast cancer survivor and advocate Jodi Krechowiecki said. “The government’s urgent action to ensure timely diagnosis for patients is welcome news to Saskatchewan women. We will continue to push for improved patient access within Saskatchewan and I am relieved to see that the government is listening to women in this province.”

This initiative is a temporary measure to accelerate urgent diagnostic breast cancer procedures, including breast mammography and biopsies, until these services are stabilized in the province, particularly in Regina. 

To help increase access to breast cancer diagnostics in the province, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has implemented several improvements including extended hours of service with additional volumes being performed in Saskatoon for long-waiting and urgent patients from Regina and southern areas. 

Additional proactive steps include centralized booking for breast imaging across Saskatchewan to provide seamless care and quicker access for all patients along with implementation of 3D breast imaging (tomosynthesis) at SHA facilities across the province. Benefits of 3D breast imaging include increased cancer detection, reduced need for additional imaging views and tests, and a reduction in both false positive and false negative mammogram results.   

The SHA is also exploring options to increase volumes for diagnostic breast mammography in regional hospitals, such as Moose Jaw. Work continues with the Ministry of Health to train and recruit medical radiation technologists, sonographers (ultrasound technologists), and radiologists with specialization in breast imaging as part of its ongoing Health Human Resources Action Plan. 

“Understanding quick access to diagnostic services is vital to ensuring patients receive timely and appropriate treatment,” Hindley said. “I had asked that all options be considered to reduce current waitlists and while work continues on bolstering Saskatchewan resources so we can provide this care at home, our partnership with a private provider in Alberta will offer immediate solutions to patients and staff.”

To learn more about the out-of-province breast cancer diagnostic initiative, please visit saskatchewan.ca/medical-imaging.